Mother’s desperate 999 calls ignored by gardaí
20th June 2021
A distressed woman who was assaulted by her partner rang 999 three times in one hour when gardaí failed to arrive at her home.
A transcript of the call was retrieved as part of an internal inquiry into the garda response to around 3,000 emergency calls from victims of domestic abuse.
The woman tells emergency operators that her partner is assaulting her, according to sources familiar with the transcript. She phones a second time, a short time later, to say her partner is threatening to damage the house and raises concerns about the welfare of her children. She calls again, pleading for the third time for help.
What happened to the woman and whether gardaí eventually responded to her calls for help is now being investigated as part of a wide-ranging internal inquiry. The issue came to light last year. An internal computer system designed to track and record 999 calls revealed that thousands of calls were being “cancelled” by gardaí. This means the caller did not get a police response.
An internal inquiry was subsequently launched focusing on the garda’s response to domestic abuse victims. Each of the 3,000 “cancelled” emergency calls identified in that review is now being interrogated to find out how gardaí responded in each case, in advance of the Garda Commissioner’s appearance before the Policing Authority on Thursday.
The 3,000 calls have been allocated to relevant garda divisions. Chief Superintendents have been asked to identify the gardaí tasked with responding to each 999 call, and finding out whether the garda actually responded. In cases where they did not respond, victims of domestic abuse are being directly contacted.
According to a source, investigators have found a number of cases in which gardaí did respond to calls but did not record their engagement with the victim on the garda’s Pulse internal crime database. But in general, the reasons for the cancelling of 999 calls are not clear, whether for legitimate reasons or to reduce the garda workload.
“We are looking back over the last year at every single call in that bracket of domestic abuse. Each call cancelled is being examined to find out if it was followed up,” said the source.
“We are investigating whether the caller actually received a service from An Garda Síochána.”
While the current inquiry is focusing on the policing service given to victims of domestic abuse, emergency calls relating to a host of other crimes were also cancelled.
The Garda Commissioner flagged the issue of cancelled 999 calls at a meeting of the Policing Authority in April. At that time he said there were legitimate reasons for cancelling 999 calls. But the audit under way at that time was to find out how many 999 calls had been cancelled “erroneously”.
He said a new system had been put in place to ensure that 999 calls could now only be cancelled under supervision.
Women’s Aid, a support group for victims of domestic violence, has urged gardaí to reach out to those people whose calls for help were not followed up.
“At the present moment what is of critical importance is that there is a swift, sensitive and systematic outreach to those whose calls went unanswered; to assess their safety and support needs,” the organisation said in a statement last week.
Drew Harris is to update the Policing Authority on Thursday. A statement from An Garda Síochána said: “Our primary concern is to establish the impact there may have been on victims of crime, particularly vulnerable victims.” It declined to comment on the “ongoing review”.