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Stand-off over Garda abuse figures; CSO in deep investigation of quality of Pulse crime records

A standoff between the Central Statistics Office and An Garda Síochána over the recording of domestic abuse incidents continues, writes Security CorrespondentCormac O'Keeffe.

The CSO is conducting a detailed examination this year of the recording of domestic abuse incidents by gardaí to determine if the data is reliable.

The CSO also said it is “unclear” when it will be able to resume publishing Garda crime statistics after it postponed publication — over concerns on homicide figures — for a third time at the end of December, but planned to publish again in the first half of 2018.

As reported in the Irish Examiner last May, the CSO concluded that it can not stand over Garda domestic violence figures after conducting an analysis and recommended that a number of measures be taken.

The CSO said its quality report on domestic abuse data will be “quite an arduous process” and involve examination of Pulse computer records and paper records to determine if domestic abuse is recorded as such.

There have been long-running concerns in this area, highlighted in particular in the Garda Inspectorate’s landmark Crime Investigation report in November 2014, which found that 45% of domestic violence calls to gardaí were not recorded on the Pulse system.

Last May, the CSO said it conducted an analysis of Garda domestic violence data going back six years and concluded they were “not sufficiently robust” to be published.

Olive Loughnane of the CSO Crime Section said they will conduct an examination of domestic violence data this year.

“We will be examining it as part of our quality report, in what is now called domestic abuse to reflect that it does not necessarily involve physical violence,” said Ms Loughnane. “We will look at the data from 2017 and look at the progress of the issues we raised.”

She said it will involve “trawling” through records on Pulse and paper

, adding that the report should be finished by September.

Ms Loughnane said there is a box on Pulse for ‘MO’ and that domestic violence can be put into that — but said the issue is gardaí are not sure when to put that in.

“To count something, people need to know what they are supposed to be counting,” she said.

Ms Loughnane said issues raised with gardaí include “clarity over what constitutes domestic abuse” and the need for “ongoing monitoring” of the quality of data.

She said there have been improvements with Pulse and that the imminent hiring of a Garda data quality officer “should make a big difference”.

A Garda spokesman said a pilot scheme is ongoing where all incidents — including domestic violence and sexual abuse — are classified on Pulse at the Garda Information Service Centre (GISC) and not by individual gardaí.

“In addition, there is a data quality review team in GISC to ensure that incidents are being classified correctly,” said the spokesman.

“Two regions have been involved in the pilot — the North and the West — and it is expected that all regions will come under this process by the end of the year.”

Gardaí also produced a domestic abuse intervention policy 2017 last July. The spokesman said this policy provides “direction to members on classifying domestic abuse incidents on Pulse” and that training of members is in progress.

Ms Loughnane said the CSO also intends to publish the general Garda crime data in the first six months of this year. It last published quarterly data in March 2017 and has since postponed publishing three times — in June, September, and December.

She said it is “unclear when exactly” they will be able to publish the data, but plan to do so either in March or June. The delay relates to CSO concerns on homicide figures as well as an internal Garda review.

This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.