Republic of Ireland news

Cancellation of 999 calls should not have happened – justice minister

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris issued an apology after it was confirmed that hundreds of emergency calls were cancelled before there was a proper policing response
James Ward, PA

The inappropriate cancellation of 999 calls from victims of domestic violence by gardaí “should not have happened”, the justice minister has said.

Commissioner Drew Harris issued a public apology yesterday after it was confirmed that hundreds of emergency calls to gardaí in 2019 and 2020 were cancelled before there was a proper policing response.

An ongoing internal Garda inquiry focusing on domestic abuse calls has identified more than 600 cases where calls were cancelled for invalid reasons.

Speaking on Friday, interim Justice Minister Heather Humphreys said: “This should not have happened.

“Any inappropriate cancellation of 999 calls is a very serious issue.

“The Garda Commissioner has assured me that when someone calls 999 now, they can expect and trust that An Garda Siochána will help, and that should always be the case.

“What happened here fell significantly below the high standards that the public expects of the gardaí and the standards that An Garda Siochána should set for itself.”

The minister acknowledged the apology from the Garda Commissioner, and said new processes have been put in place “to ensure this never happens again”.

She told RTE’s Morning Ireland: “I am particularly concerned that anyone experiencing domestic abuse, and indeed anyone in a vulnerable position, who gather up the courage to seek assistance may not have received it.”

But the Garda response has been heavily criticised by watchdog the Policing Authority, which said their engagement on the issue has been “deeply dissatisfying”.

Appearing on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, chairman Bob Collins said in addition to the cancellation of 999 calls, there are concerns over the manner in which calls were handled by gardaí.

He said: “There are two separate issues. One is the actual cancellation of calls. The second is the quality of service that was provided to people who made calls.

“The way in which they were responded to, the way in which they were listened to, the extent to which there was an understanding for their stress and distress.

“Nobody rings 999 casually, it is a very significant decision to take. I’m not at all satisfied that anything like enough has been done to deal with that issue.”

Minister Humphreys declined to say whether she agreed with the Policing Authority’s assessment, saying she will have to wait for the final Garda report.

She said: “The Policing Authority have concerns and these concerns will have to be addressed.

“I will be getting a full report on the issue. As the Commissioner said yesterday, An Garda Siochána’s review of this matter is not yet complete.

“It’s not possible to make any definitive conclusions until it is.

“But I am confident that appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that these types of issues will not arise if anyone makes a call to 999 today.

“I think that’s very important to say, that people have confidence when they make these calls, that they will be treated in the correct way and taken very seriously.”

Of the more than 600 cases found, over 300 victims have been contacted so far. However, gardaí say that no adverse consequences have been identified.

While the scope of the inquiry has focused solely on calls related to domestic violence, more than 22,000 “priority one” calls – involving the most serious incidents – were also cancelled.

Further detail on those calls is expected to be made available in the coming months.

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