Leo Varadkar says cancelling of 999 calls by Gardaí "a very serious issue"
The Garda Commissioner Drew Harris publicly apologised to victims of domestic violence earlier today.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the cancelling of 999 calls by Gardaí is "a very serious issue" in the Dáil on Thursday.
“Any inappropriate cancellation of 999 calls is a very serious issue," he said.
“The Garda Commissioner has assured the Minister for Justice that when somebody calls 999 now they can expect and trust that a Guard will help. This should always be the case and should always have been the case.”
The Tánaiste was responding to Solidarity TD Mick Barry when he said that the Commissioner “will give a full account of these serious shortcomings and outline what steps have been taken to ensure it does not happen again.”
Barry said the volume of cancellations “speaks to something more than sloppy policing by this or that Garda.”
“It speaks to me of a failure on the part of the leadership of An Garda Síochána to instil and foster a culture of making the protection of women and children a high priority. At worst, it could even speak to a culture of misogyny,” Barry said.
The Garda Commissioner publicly apologised to victims of domestic violence whose emergency calls were not properly responded to earlier today.
An internal inquiry is underway into how thousands of 999 calls were cancelled by Gardaí across the country over a 22-month period in an investigation led by Assistant Commissioner Barry O’Brien. The report showed that 3,120 reports of domestic violence were not followed up on by Gardaí.
The report has found so far that more than half of these were either cancelled correctly or were cancelled without impacting on a victim. However, roughly 1,400 cancelled calls are still being reviewed.
At a public meeting of the Policing Authority, Harris issued the apology to victims, saying that "regrettably" there were instances that Gardaí didn't properly respond to victims of domestic violence.
“On behalf of An Garda Síochána I want to apologise to those victims," Harris said.
"They are among the most vulnerable people in society and when some victims of domestic abuse called for our assistance they did not always receive the professional service we aim to deliver and victims are entitled to expect."
Sarah Benson, CEO of Women's Aid said earlier today that the failures by Gardaí to respond to calls from domestic violence victims are of "deep concern" and "extremely troubling".
"A single call in an emergency situation to Gardai can be life changing for someone subjected to domestic violence - in a positive or negative way depending on how the call is dealt with," she said.
"The Commissioner’s public apology coming today is very welcome. More importantly, however, at the present moment what remains of critical importance is that there has been a full assessment of the calls in question, that an action plan is in place and underway to ensure a swift, sensitive and systematic outreach to those whose calls went unanswered and who may remain at high risk; to assess their safety and support needs."
She added that a "complete root and branch revision of internal systems and practices must also be completed to ensure that such a grievous breach of procedure can never happen again."
"Culture is critical also, and all members of the Gardaí must be reminded of their responsibilities under the Garda Domestic Abuse Policy and held to this standard.
"Women’s Aid has reached out and offered assistance in supporting training and awareness to assure a victim-centred approach is taken by all members equally no matter what their role in the force.
"This should underpin all Garda responses from the point when a person in need picks up the phone to ask for help, right through to when a criminal case may be concluded."