28 March 2018

 

 

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan T.D., today welcomed the recommencement of the publication of Official Crime Statistics by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

 

The Minister said “I welcome today’s publication of the official crime statistics for 2017. It is hugely important for the management of criminal justice policy, and for Garda operations, that we have regular publication of the crime statistics to allow for a targeted response to crime. While I note that the CSO has published these statistics “Under Reservation”, I believe today’s move is a positive step in returning the crime statistics to the high standard required of our crime statistics by the CSO.”

 

The number of homicide offences recorded in 2016 were revised from a figure of 71 to 91. In 2017, the recorded homicide figure was 71, a decrease of 22% on 2016 figures. The Minister said “The homicide statistics, as we expected, show increases in previously released data which can be attributed to the ongoing review of the homicide stats. There is clearly more work to be done in this area and An Garda Síochána, in conjunction with the CSO and the Policing Authority are working to ensure that the issues in relation to the crime statistics are resolved as a matter of urgency.”

 

The CSO figures also show increases in property-related crime over the 12 months of 2017 when compared to the revised 2016 figures with:

Burglary up 3% .

Robbery up 4.5%.

Theft up 8%.

 

There have also been increases in the sexual offences category which is up 17%.

 

Commenting on today’s figures, the Minister said While I am disappointed that after a number of years of largely positive trends in relation to the different crime categories, today’s readjusted figures indicate a change in those trends which will need to be examined.  Of course, the figures for 2017, particularly in relation to property-related crime such as burglary, must be viewed against the significant decrease that was achieved by An Garda Síochána in 2016 of 30%. While there has been a slight increase in burglary offences recorded in 2017 of 3%, this figure is still down 27% when compared to 2015 - coinciding with the introduction of Garda Operation Thor and the investment of significant Government resources.”

 

Speaking about the figures in relation to sexual offences, the Minister said: “The rise in the recorded incidents of sexual assault is something this Government is taking very seriously. I am currently working to bring forward the publication of the Heads of a Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2018. This Bill will increase the penalties for repeat sexual offenders. However, I would also make the point that an increase in recorded incidents of sexual assault can also indicate an increase in the reporting of sexual crimes, and I would continue to encourage anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault to come forward and report the incident to An Garda Síochána.

 

The Minister reiterated the Government’s ongoing commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. The substantial increase in Garda numbers currently underway is tangible progress on achieving the Government’s vision of an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021. By the end of 2018, Garda numbers will be at over 14,000 – a net increase of 500 on top of last year’s increase of 600. Significant investments are also underway in ICT, vehicles and accommodation. Between 2013 and 2017, about 2,000 new vehicles came on stream and between now and 2021 a further €30 million has been earmarked under the Government’s Capital plan to ensure the fleet remains modern, effective and fit for purpose. In addition, between 2016 and 2021 some €342 million will have been spent on ensuring Gardaí have access to the latest ICT technologies.

 

The Minister concluded by saying that While my concerns in relation to the crime statistics have been well documented, it is important to also recognise that Ireland is by no means the only jurisdiction that experiences issues regarding the accurate recording of crime. Indeed, the Garda Inspectorate Report on Crime Investigation 2014 is quite clear that the challenges faced by An Garda Síochána are similar to those faced by other police services around the world. For its part, the Government remains committed to ensuring An Garda Síochána have the necessary resources to tackle all forms of criminality in our State and have invested heavily in An Garda Síochána in recent years. It is my intention to meet with the Garda Commissioner and his management team in the near future to discuss these statistics in detail.”

 

ENDS

 

Notes for Editor:

Deferral of the official crime statistic publication by the CSO.

The CSO have not published the official recorded crime statistics since March 2017 when the statistics for Q4 2016 were released. This decision was taken by the CSO, initially, as they had raised concerns in relation to the figures being supplied by An Garda Síochána.

On 7 September 2017, the CSO announced that following discussions with An Garda Síochána, they had decided to further defer the publication of recorded crime statistics. This followed on from An Garda Síochána’s decision to extend their review of homicide data.

Earlier this year, the CSO announced its decision to resume publication of recorded crime statistics in the first six months of 2018. However, as PULSE data – on which the CSO is wholly dependent - is subject to a number of separate ongoing quality reviews and concerns that extended beyond just homicide data, the CSO made the decision that recorded crime statistics will be published in a new category entitled: “Under Reservation”.

 

“Under Reservation”.

According to the CSO, the classification of “Under Reservation” is in keeping with other jurisdictions and other statistical domains. This indicates that, while the statistics have been determined to be of sufficient quality to allow publication, the ongoing issues mean that the quality does not yet meet the higher standard required of official statistics by the CSO.

 

Criteria for lifting the categorisation.

The CSO is engaging with An Garda Síochána to set out the criteria for the lifting of the reservation. These criteria are not confined to homicide data but will address quality concerns across a broader range of issues. They will address issues such as data governance, training, crime data recording procedures and the auditing and monitoring of data quality.

 

Ongoing Homicide Statistics Review.

An Garda Síochána is currently working, in conjunction with the CSO and the Policing Authority, to resolve an issue which was identified by An Garda Síochána in relation to the classification of homicide offences. The expert oversight by the CSO of crime statistics in line with best international practice ensures that the public can have confidence in the data which informs the development of effective policies by the Department of Justice and Equality. 

The issue about the classification of homicide statistics is not new. It was identified some time ago by the Gardaí themselves and the Minister is assured that intensive work has been ongoing to resolve the issue by An Garda Síochána with oversight from the Policing Authority, the CSO and the Department of Justice and Equality.

An Garda Síochána initiated a review of homicide classifications, initially for the period 2013-2015 but later extended the review to cover the period from 2003-2017.  This is obviously a time consuming and complex process but it is important that both An Garda Síochána and the CSO are confident that their data is robust and accurate.  While the review was underway, the CSO had suspended the publication of the quarterly crime statistics until today. The review by An Garda Síochána has not been published as it is not yet complete, however the details will be made public on completion.

The Minister has already expressed his concerns about reports that unlawful deaths were not properly investigated.  Any substantiated allegations of this kind would be very serious and a cause of grave public concern.  The issue that has arisen in respect of homicide classification is complex and it is essential to clearly establish the facts.

The Minister has received assurances from the Garda Commissioner that he is confident that all cases, which were identified by An Garda Síochána as requiring further examination, have been properly investigated in accordance with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This article protects the right to life and places an obligation on States to investigate suspicious deaths.

An Garda Síochána outlined the methodology of the peer review, and other aspects of the ongoing process, to the Policing Authority at their last public meeting on 22 February 2018.

The Minister for Justice and Equality continues to support the Authority’s important work in relation to this matter and understands that this issue will continue to be examined both in public meetings and in the ongoing work that takes place in between such meetings until the Authority is fully satisfied. This oversight is appropriate and welcome, as the Policing Authority was established by the Government as an independent body to oversee the performance of An Garda Síochána in relation to policing services in Ireland. Its key objective is to promote trust and confidence in policing and to help shape policing services for Ireland in the future.  The Minister has full confidence in the ability of the Authority to do the work with which they are tasked.