Senior gardaí ‘roasted’ over cancelled 999 call scandal
3rd October 2021
Senior gardaí were “heavily criticised” by the force’s audit and risk committee last week over the widescale Garda cancellation of 999 calls.
The committee, chaired by professor Niamh Brennan, held a private meeting last week with senior officers. Details of what transpired have been relayed to the Sunday Independent — and it is understood that senior gardaí were “roasted” over the controversy.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was not present at the meeting, held virtually, as he was abroad on business. An Garda Síochána’s two deputy commissioners were present.
It was a scheduled meeting, not specially convened to address this matter.
A well-placed source explained: “This 999 issue is not going away. It has the potential to be a major problem, depending on what the Policing Authority investigation finds when it is completed.
“The senior gardaí present were heavily criticised over the entire affair. It is fair to say they were roasted. They were left reeling after it.”
Commissioner Harris was himself grilled about the matter by the Policing Authority on September 23.
Mr Harris told this meeting that a number of gardaí are under investigation as 999 calls continued to be cancelled even after the problem emerged.
An internal Garda review previously found that over 200,000 emergency callouts in a 22-month period between 2019 and 2020 were not properly responded to. Procedures have since been put in place to prevent this happening again.
However, the Garda Commissioner revealed that 53 further incidents have since been identified where 999 calls were cancelled.
He told the Policing Authority that these were now the subject of disciplinary investigations, and that he was “shocked” it happened, given the time and effort spent by the organisation addressing the problem.
In July, the interim results of a Garda review of the issue found that between 400 and 500 high-priority crimes, including those of domestic violence, were not investigated by gardaí because 999 calls were inappropriately cancelled.
The Policing Authority later appointed Derek Penman to independently review An Garda Síochána’s work. He began his work at the beginning of August. Mr Penman is a former assistant chief constable of Police Scotland.
His analysis of the cancellation of 999 calls was due to be submitted to the Policing Authority by August 30. However, this deadline was extended and his review is ongoing.
In late July, Commissioner Harris told a Policing Authority meeting that the high-priority calls cancelled in 2019 and last year were analysed, and 13pc of them were found to involve a crime.
A large proportion of those crimes, he said, were “minor assaults”.
In total, more than 200,000 emergency 999 calls were cancelled in the 22 months to the end of last October.
Because that number was so high, gardaí began to review ‘priority one’ calls. These relate to domestic violence, sexual assaults, in-progress burglaries and physical assaults, among other crimes.
But the Policing Authority decided it wanted an independent review of the controversy, which led to the appointment of the outside expert.
It emerged last year that people whose calls were cancelled included domestic violence victims, as well as others calling about sexual or physical assault.
Commissioner Harris has since apologised to the general public.