The Chairperson of the Policing Authority has said the controversy over the cancelled 999 calls made to gardaí has been "a very significant and important episode in the life of the organisation".

An independent review into the cancellation of 999 calls made to gardaí has found there were several incidents of "substantial shortcomings" in the handling of calls.

The review commissioned by the Policing Authority, which was published today, was carried out by former Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland Derek Penman.

Chair of the Policing Authority Bob Collins said the controversy "has identified the significance of the service that the Garda Síochána provides to the public and the significance of ensuring the quality of that service is as the public would want it to be and that the performance of those people who are engaged in providing service to people at their most vulnerable is as it should be".

"There is considerable work still to be done and it is a never-ending task, it is not concluded by the finalisation" of the independent report, he added.

"It is a work of continuing, unceasing significance for the public and the Garda Síochána."

Speaking on RTÉ's Prime Time tonight, Mr Collins urged people to call 999 in an emergency and said he was a "great deal more confident" that people would get a proper service now than they would have 12 months ago.

He said there are more staff in the service, that there is gradually more supervision in the area and an awareness in the force of the risks involved.

But he said the issue of supervision of the service is an area that needs more urgency

Mr Collins said that it was "a minor miracle that more awfulness didn't emerge" from the calls that were not dealt with properly, but he conceded that nobody could be certain that harm did not happen in some of those cases.

However he said the report showed that victim engagement was effective where the victim was known to Gardaí.

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Earlier, the Taoiseach described the Policing Authority report as "very worrying".

Micheál Martin said the public must have complete confidence that when they ring 999 they get an immediate and appropriate response.

He said he had no doubt that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will outline to both the Policing Authority and the relevant Oireachtas Committee the steps An Garda Síochána are taking and will continue to take to address what he described as a serious issue.

Clíona Sadlier of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland said the response to some 999 calls "fell far short of what we would expect" from An Garda Síochána.

More than 3,000 of the calls cancelled on the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system related to domestic violence.

Ms Sadlier urged any person who received an inadequate response and is still in need of help, to make contact with gardaí again.

"It is really important that we send out a signal today to say if you have experienced making that call and not getting the adequate response from the gardaí, please do get in touch again if you still need the services of the gardaí, please don't hesitate."

Speaking to RTÉ's Drivetime, Ms Sadlier said: "Each one of those calls was potentially someone at risk and potentially a very serious crime that was happening."

She said that those calling 999 can be under duress or in distress.

"They're calling an emergency line for a reason and what they need is a really professional person on the end of the phone."

'Missed opportunities'

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris welcomed the report and its recommendations, which he said will inform An Garda Síochána's own assessments.

He acknowledged "there were missed opportunities to engage with callers, even if there wasn't a crime".

The Commissioner said Garda management "took immediate mitigating actions when the risk was identified in October 2020".

"We continue to make improvements to the Computer Aided Dispatch process, additional staff, national approach to incident response, a new purpose built Dublin Metropolitan Region control room and especially we look forward to the deployment of the new CAD system in early 2023," Commissioner Harris said.

He said it will also involve "a behavioural shift from a dispatch focused system to consideration and implementation of a complete customer and victim centered relationship management system".

The Commissioner also admitted that he "can't give a complete assurance about the behaviour of those who take the calls".

"We have also had to deal with individuals in the very recent past whose performance has not been up to scratch and provided a poor performance," he said.

Deputy Garda Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon said the report has "shone a light into the control rooms, a light that wasn’t shone before".

She said while there were examples of very good practice in the review, there were also "examples where we didn’t display that empathy and that curiosity that one would expect when somebody is calling in from a vulnerable position or a position of crisis".

With additional reporting by Samantha Libreri