Misclassification and inaccurate recording of crimes by the gardaí left some women at risk of domestic violence, two civilian officers in the gardaí's statistics unit have told the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

In her opening statement, Deputy Head of the Garda Síochána Analysis Service Lois West said: "We had very genuine concerns that a person may be living in a vulnerable situation.

"For example, we made the decision to escalate cases where we felt that a new partner may be at risk."

The two civilian officers said they were subjected to "severe pressure" to withdraw their concerns, "to ignore our professional standards". Their "integrity, both personal and professional was undermined and attacked".

Senior Crime and Policing Analyst Laura Galligan told the committee how she and her colleague were "belittled and treated very poorly" when they tried to raise serious concerns about misreporting of homicides with senior officers.

Ms West, who previously worked as an analyst for the PSNI, detailed that back in July 2016, she received a request for analytical assistance from the Garda National Protective Services Bureau.

The request was for her unit to conduct a ten-year review of domestic homicide from 2007 to 2016.

She tasked Ms Galligan with this review and it soon became clear there was a deficit of information on the Pulse system.

When Ms Galligan analysed and cross-checked the files held in the Office of the State Pathologist, information held on Pulse, and homicide spreadsheets, previously produced internally by the GSAS on a monthly basis, she identified inconsistencies that she deemed to be "very significant".

Ms West said that she "immediately recognised the gravity of the matters raised and the many possible ramifications.

"In my view, the issues raised went right to the heart of policing and the ability of An Garda Síochána to protect and serve the public."

As well as concerns about the accurate provision of crime data to the Central Statistics Office, Ms West said her primary concern was with the victims and their loved ones.

She said she could immediately see the very serious organisational risks for the force, in terms of reputational damage and public confidence.

Ms Galligan told the committee how she first noticed serious discrepancies in the recording of homicides in the Pulse system when she began the review of domestic violence deaths. 

In 2016, she sent an 87-page report covering the period 2013-2015 to management at the GSAS, which found that 43 cases out of 524 deaths were not identified as potential homicides. 

When Ms Galligan and her manager, Ms West, raised their concerns with a review group made up of officers from the Policy Development, Implementation and Monitoring (PDIM) in 2017, she described the meetings as "robust". 

"We voiced our concerns at what we deemed to be a very serious issue regarding the recording and classification of deaths within An Garda Síochána.

"Professionally, I felt neither Ms West nor I were given the respect we deserved. Indeed, at times I felt we were belittled and treated very poorly," Ms Galligan said.

Ms West told Fianna Fáil's Justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan that she was "aghast and felt disgust" when she saw a report written by officers from PDIM, which she and her colleague had been excluded from, and which criticised the methodology they had used in their earlier work.

"I felt it was quite insulting and to my mind was a clear attempt to undermine the analysis that was done and take away from it. I was deeply unhappy," Ms West said. 

When she was given the report, she was told to give her views on it by the end of the day. 

Labour TD Alan Kelly asked Ms West if she felt the culture within the force had changed recently, she responded: "If it has, it hasn't changed enough." 

She added that this was "not about hanging anyone out to dry", but they simply wanted to give confidence to the public that everything is as it should be. 

The chair of the committee, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, praised the two women for highlighting the issue and giving evidence to them. 

"You are a very powerful duo ... an example to us all in the public service," Mr Ó Caoláin said. 

He said the Policing Authority is due to appear before the committee in the near future.

Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly asked the two civilian analysts if based on the analysis of the files that they have looked at so far, if they believed that there are people at risk today because of crimes being misclassified or maybe risk indicators being missed.

Ms West replied: "I don't think that would be to overstate it.

"I would still lack confidence. Yes, there have been technical fixes and attempts through the course of time to put various fixes in place to assist the process, but it is still not a complete process. 

"It is still not one that lends itself to easily identifying an escalation of incidents where people may be vulnerable."

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he is concerned about the statements made by the two civilian officers, particularly the suggestion that the non-recording of incidents of domestic violence may put other women in danger.

He said that, in recent weeks, he had met the acting garda commissioner and his team, as well as the Policing Authority, to impress upon them the need to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

In a statement, An Garda Síochána said it "does not comment on individual cases, but all complaints of potential crime are investigated."

"An Garda Síochána supports any personnel in An Garda Síochána in bringing forward issues of concern.

"Any complaints from garda personnel in terms of how they have been treated are taken seriously and examined."

A review of the figures is under way.

The Policing Authority has said it will review the transcripts from the committee meeting to consider whether any action is needed.

In a statement, it said its chairperson would be appearing before the Oireachtas Justice and Equality Committee later this month and this issue is one of the items on the agenda.

The Policing Authority said it will continue to focus on issues in relation to homicides until it is fully satisfied.

Women's Aid, which supports women and their children experiencing domestic violence, said it is "deeply concerned" to hear the issues raised today.

It said it is worrying that the process to review homicide case announced in November 2016 has taken so long.

The group went on to say it believes that delays are preventing the development of a best practice response in relation to domestic violence including risk assessment and risk management.

Caitriona Gleeson of SAFE Ireland, which works with victims of domestic violence, has said today's evidence is quite shocking, but not surprising.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime, Ms Gleeson said she does not have confidence that all of the investigations have been carried out.

Additional reporting Conor McMorrow