Updated: 30/06/17 : 07:35:49
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Gardaí understate homicide figures by six per year

Many more people have been killed in Ireland than official Garda figures have claimed over the past decade and a half, the force has admitted.

Garda chiefs say they understated the number of homicides in the State by 89 over the past 14 years - a rate of more than six a year.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) this week suspended its publication of quarterly crime figures until an investigation was carried out into the accuracy of Garda records.

Before the Policing Authority, Gurchand Singh, head of the Garda Analysis Service, said a CSO probe flagged up concerns about the recording of homicides in particular.

These include murders, manslaughters and dangerous driving causing death.

The CSO said "important information was missing or incorrectly applied" to such incidents in the records, mainly files relating to dangerous driving causing death.

As a result, the Garda itself reviewed over 1,400 homicides between 2003 and May 2017.

Around 85 records did not detail the victim.

In 63 cases, where multiple offences were involved, the incidents were recorded as the less serious offence rather than the homicide.

Also, in a further 26 cases of multiple homicides - where there were a number of victims in each incident - the records showed just one.

Mr Singh said the records have all since been rectified and the force is to send new figures to CSO, which will have to determine if it is satisfied with the changes.

The Garda analyst suggested the errors - never uncovered in numerous previous reviews - were not intentional.

"It is very hard to tell just looking at the incidents," he said.

"To me, I think it is a process issue in terms of the way people were putting the incidents on (the system).

"There is no attempt to hide a homicide, there is no attempt to reclassify a homicide to a minor offence.

"The homicides are all listed there, it is simply just a matter of the way the record was constructed that led to the problems that emerged."

But Vicky Conway, a university law lecturer and member of the Policing Authority, said she was very concerned.

"Those numbers are alarming," she said.

"It also concerns me that this is a different area of concern to what we were talking about previously in relation to homicides."

A separate review earlier this year of the Garda's homicide figures, involving 41 sample cases, also found a small number were wrongly classified as assaults.

It followed an audit which revealed almost one million fewer drink-driving breath tests were carried out from 2012 to 2016 than the force had claimed.

The Garda also admitted 146,000 people were taken to court and 14,700 people were wrongly convicted of motoring offences because of issues with the fixed penalty system.

Ms Conway said the latest findings were "on top of other concerns".

"I am very concerned about what we are going to be looking at in total," she said.