Backlogs in the examination of digital devices for child abuse imagery and other crimes continue to be a critical issue within An Garda Síochána — despite efforts to clear them, according to the 2018 Garda Annual Report.
The Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau had a backlog of almost 500 cases at the close of 2018, some of them up to five years old.
The report said there has only been a marginal fall in the waiting list since 2017. New requests in 2018 include:
- 248 cases of child pornography [the legal description of the offence];
- 83 cases of theft and fraud;
- 31 cases of child exploitation and grooming;
- 30 cases of data retrieval;
- 19 cases of sexual assault/rape.
“The Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau case backlog, while reduced in recent years, continues to be a critical priority for the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau management,” said the report.
“The backlog did not reduce significantly in 2018 despite the adoption of robust methods.”
It said the backlog stood at 493 cases at the end of 2018, representing “a marginal decrease” on 2017, and that examinations had started in 146 (30%) of the 493 cases.
It said the age backlog of cases at the end of 2018 was up to five years old, compared to six years at the close of 2017. It said a new case management facility was developed, allowing for “early intervention and escalation of issues”.
It said the introduction of regional cybercrime units in 2019 would help reduce the backlog.
The findings follow repeated concerns from the Policing Authority, the Garda Inspectorate, and the Policing Commission regarding bureau resources.
Last October, Detective Superintendent Pat Ryan of the bureau said it had 32 members, but that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris had approved a plan to bring the complement up to 120 within two years, including staffing at the new divisional cyber units.
The report said the Garda National Protective Services Bureau co-ordinated Operation Ketch in 2018, targeting the distribution and possession of child abuse material, involving 137 searches and 137 people.
The bureau also identified 56 children who were the victim of online exploitation and took 76 calls to its child sexual abuse reporting line.
The report highlights ongoing increases in domestic abuse cases, from 12,997 in 2013 to 21,434 in 2017 and to 23,385 in 2018. It said the numbers were “potentially under reported”.
Recorded hate crime figures also rose, from 112 in 2013 to 323 in 2017 and to 342 in 2018. The figures are potentially underreported said the report.
The report said 416 guns were seized in 2018, with the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau confiscating an estimated €28m worth of illegal drugs.
This department arrested 191 people for drug trafficking, money laundering, or possession of firearms, and seized almost €2.8m in cash.
It conducted 13 ‘threat to life operations’ (interception of attempted assassinations) in 2018 — bringing to 59 the number of such operations since the murder of Kinahan lieutenant David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in February 2016.
The Garda Ballistics Section received 653 cases in 2018, but links/identifications were only made in 12, with identifications “constrained by criminal trends of one use firearms and disposal following incidents”.
The National Negotiation Unit, attached to Special Tactics and Operations Command, was involved in a record 98 hostage/ barricade/ suicide type incidents in 2018. More than 60% of the incidents related to mental health issues and 24% to criminal matters.
The Special Detective Unit was successful in the conviction of 12 people at the Special Criminal Court for terrorist-related activities.
Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Line 1800 555 222;
CARI 1890 924 567;
Childline 1800 66 66 66