Harris Apologises To Domestic Abuse Victims Over Cancelled 999 Calls

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has apologised to victims of domestic abuse who did not receive the policing response they were entitled to, when they made an emergency call.

Drew Harris made this apology at a public meeting of the policing authority on Thursday.

Between 2019 and October 2020, 3,100 emergency calls made by domestic violence victims to 999 were “cancelled”.

Some of the calls were also described as “harrowing”.

“extremely troubling”

This statistic has been described as “extremely troubling” by Women’s Aid.

Women’s Aid’s chief executive is Sarah Benson. She said that when a domestic abuse victim calls 999, contact could be “life changing … depending on how the call is dealt with”.

A number of these domestic abuse victims include vulnerable women and children. A lot of these callers also reached out during strict lockdown restrictions, but their calls were not dealt with properly.

Many were at home, dealing with abusive partners during this period.

“Unacceptable”

On Thursday the chairman of the authority, Bob Collins criticised the Gardaí when he met senior officers behind closed doors last month.

He said that there was an “unacceptable” delay of six months until April, by the Gardaí in informing the authority about the growing controversy.

Mr Collins said he had “deep dissatisfaction and significant concern” over the lack of Garda engagement with this issue.

Mr Harris said that Gardaí had put in a huge effort last year to tackle the issue of domestic violence.

“On behalf of An Garda Síochána I want to apologise to those victims”, Mr Harris said before the public meeting on Thursday.

“They are among the most vulnerable people in society”, he added. “When some victims of domestic abuse called for our assistance they did not always receive the professional service we aim to deliver and victims are entitled to expect”.

Mr Harris also insisted that those 3,100 “cancelled” calls are still under review. He added that a full account will be provided when available. Gardaí are also contacting abuse victims who have been impacted.

Harris said that cancelled emergency calls had been caused by “technological and procedural failings”.  He said that it was also caused by Gardaí “not adhering” to practices for combatting domestic violence.

“The way it should be”

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys welcomed Garda Commissioner Drew Harris’ apology.

She said that inappropriate cancellation of 999 calls is a serious issue.

“The Garda Commissioner has assured me that when someone calls 999 now they can expect and trust the Garda Síochána will help and that’s the way it should be”, she said.

She said that these processes have been put in place so this “doesn’t happen again”. Minister Humphreys did express her concern that people who showed courage in phoning for help, did not get the assistance they deserved.

She also added that a report will be prepared by the policing authority for her.

Earlier this week, Harris had also urged Gardaí not to penalise pubs for serving alcohol outdoors. More on that here.