THE unit set up in Cork city to investigate sexual and domestic violence crimes has been unable to take on any new cases since late last year.
Garda Padraig Harrington of the Cork city branch of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) told delegates at the GRA conference in Killarney yesterday that the unit, which was set up as a pilot project in May 2017, is symptomatic of the general shortage of resources within An Garda Siochána.
Following an initial pilot phase, the unit was placed on a permanent footing and is answerable to the national protective services unit.
Garda Harrington told The Echo: “The protective services unit, which is supposed to investigate all sexual crime in Cork city, has effectively been closed for business since the end of 2018. It is because of the volume of work and there isn’t the manpower in there.
“They have taken on no new cases since 2018.”
He said that new cases are being handled again by ordinary members of the force, who, he said, would not have the same level of training as members of the protective services unit would have.
The unit was set up to tackle sexual and domestic violence crimes as well as child abuse. Also under its remit are human trafficking, prostitution, and the management of sex offenders.
When it was rolled out, Deputy Garda Commissioner John Twomey said the units would result in victims of such crimes being able to “expect a more professional and consistent service from the gardaí”.
Garda Harrington also told the conference yesterday that there is a shortage of manpower because gardaí are tied up doing paperwork.
However, efforts are now underway to increase the number of civilians working within the force.
He said: “Previously, if I was attending court on my day off, I would get three hours overtime for attending court. Whereas now, they are scheduling the court hearings for a day when you are working and that is taking the guards who are supposed to be out patrolling on the street and bringing them into court.”
Paperwork around such cases is significant.
He elaborated: “You have guards having to sit in front of a computer for maybe an hour a day purely trying to update PULSE.”