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Chief Superintendent Sean Colleran.

Fewer than 30 Clare emergency calls received inappropriate response in two-year period

THE number of emergency calls made to Clare Gardaí that didn’t receive an appropriate response is less than 30, according to a garda chief.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris recently publicly apologised to domestic violence victims who made emergency calls for help but did not receive the standard of service from gardaí that they required and to which they were entitled.

Mr Harris issued the apology at a Policing Authority meeting after a garda inquiry into how 999 calls were dealt with found that more than 600 emergency calls in 2019 and 2020 were cancelled before there was an appropriate policing response.

The inquiry is examining more than 3,000 cancelled 999 calls to gardaí about domestic violence, missing persons or health issues.

Superintendent Sean Colleran outlined the number of reported breaches of a barring order, safety order, protection order, which fell from 89 for the first eight months of 2020 to 60 for the same period this year – a percentage drop of 33%.

The number of domestic disputes where no offence was disclosed fell from 423 for the first eight months of 2020 to 308 for the same time frame in 2021, a percentage drop of 27%.

Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked if Superintendent Colleran had any thoughts on the decrease in domestic violence incidents in Clare, which was in sharp contrast to the national increase.

Superintendent Colleran admitted he didn’t know why this figure had decreased in Clare compared to the national trend, but noted if there was an increase in the number of domestic violence incidents, this could be attributed to increased reporting of this crime due to a lack of fear and intimidation.

The investigation into emergency calls began when gardaí discovered that 999 calls about domestic violence, missing persons and health concerns had been cancelled before there was a proper policing response.

They were also not recorded on the Garda’s PULSE computer system and therefore there was no follow-up as is the garda policy on domestic violence.

The investigation has identified 3,120 cancelled emergency calls, 1,092 of which were validly cancelled.

Legitimate reasons for cancellation include multiple calls in relation to the same instance when only one response was required, calls that were more suitable for other emergency services,
such as the fire service or coastal rescue, and silent calls.

The Garda Commissioner said gardaí did not provide the standard of service to victims of domestic abuse that is required and he apologised to them.

Mr Harris described them at the Policing Authority meeting as “among the most vulnerable people in society”.

He said that when some of them called for garda help “they did not always receive the service they are entitled to expect”.

Madeline McAleer asked at a recent Clare Joint Policing Committee how many of these calls were referred to the Clare Garda Division, and if there was any outcome to the national investigation.

Chief Superintendent Seán Colleran said the figures for unanswered calls in Clare were very low and were less than 30.

Following a review of these calls, he noted half of the callers didn’t want any further response when contacted, while a lot of recorded calls as emergencies were miscategorised as they were public order or mental health issues.

With up to 28 garda divisions throughout the country, Superintendent Colleran stressed when the Clare figures are compared with other divisions, they are much lower.
He said there were no calls so far where there was a need to follow up on a serious concern, while all the miscategorised calls have been addressed.

Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne felt it was important to reassure the public if they contact the gardaí, the decision to reach out for help would result in a response.

The Sinn Féin Deputy felt it would be useful if Commissioner Harris could provide an overview of the outcome of the national investigation into the 3,000 unanswered calls when he addresses the JPC meeting on October 18 next.

She expressed concern if any caller didn’t receive a response in a timely fashion, they may not have felt further action was appropriate when they were contacted in a follow-up call from gardaí.

By Dan Danaher

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