‘The important thing is looking after the victims and responding to their needs’

A TEAM of highly trained, dedicated detectives dealing with sex offences, child protection issues and domestic violence recently commenced operation in the Meath / Westmeath Garda Division.

The Divisional Protective Services Unit (DPSU) is headed up by Detective Inspector Fran Byrne, who is based in Navan and the unit will be based in offices in Navan and Athlone.

The new unit will investigate sexual crime, child abuse, domestic abuse, online child exploitation and will be involved in sex offender management.

“We have the appropriate resources to deal with these types of crime and the officers in the unit have all had specialist training,” said Det InsP Byrne.

“The unit will provide a consistent and professional approach to investigating crimes that involve vulnerable victims,” he said.

The unit was set up under the new Policing Service for the Future model and there are now 27 such units operational across Ireland. There is now a DPSU in operation within every Garda division.

Insp Byrne points out that until now, someone reporting a sexual crime, may have gone to the hatch in the garda station and whoever responded at that time was likely to have investigated the incident.

“Now when a sexual crime of a serious is reported, it will be referred to us and the victim will have one dedicated person they will be dealing with.

“All the Gardai assigned to the unit are detectives will undergo specialist training in protective services as well as their detective training.”

The Divisional Protective Services Unit (DPSU) is headed up by Detective Inspector Fran Byrne

Det Insp Byrne was appointed inspector and there will be a Superintendent appointed to the unit. There is a detective sergeant in both Navan and Athlone and ten detective gardai.

“The number of gardai in the unit is subject to review and there is capacity for additional members if needed,” he said.

“The unit is responsible for all sexual crimes in Meath and Westmeath, as well as sexual crimes against children and online child exploitation.

“We will also deal with serious domestic violence and cases of sexual exploitation in human trafficking.”

With lockdown and restrictions and people spending more time at home, there has been the potential for a lot more domestic violence.

“Cases of violent and repeated domestic abuse will be referred to us.”

The important thing is looking after the victims and responding to their needs.

Insp Byrnes message to victims of sexual crimes or domestic violence is to come forward.

“There is a lot of support available. You have one detective who will liaise with you at all times and there are supports from outside the Gardai, you can be referred to.

“We know it can be a terrible ordeal to go to court but you will be supported all the way. We will be taking a very humane approach.”

He also reassured male victims of domestic violence or sexual crime that they too will be supported.

“We make no difference between male and female victims.

“Male victims of these crimes can be even slower than females to come forward. We have male and female detectives and if a victim feels more comfortable talking to one gender they will be facilitated.”

While the new unit will see lots of changes to garda operations, there are things that haven't changed.

“Uniformed gardai will still be the first responders, will still attend most of the calls but they will have a structured path to follow, preserving the scene and taking exhibits, but they will then refer it to us.

“There is also a built in mechanism, where they can refer something to us later that may not have seemed as serious initially.

“The Garda at the hatch may receive a call that doesn't seem that serious but it can still be escalated to us.”

Insp Byrne is a native of Wexford and has been working in the Meath division since 2016. He worked in a number of divisions in Dublin and spent 10 years in the Pearse Street District.

From there he came to Meath, he served in Kells and Ashbourne and was a detective sergeant in Asbourne until his appointment to Navan.

Personnel assigned to DPSUs have been provided with a bespoke training course which has been developed by the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB), in conjunction with the Garda College. The training addresses issues such as - investigation of sexual crime, child protection, investigation of domestic abuse, online child exploitation and oversight of sex offender management.

“The unit will mean stronger governance in dealing with sexual crimes, with clearly assigned roles to avoid any pitfalls and it will mean more support for vulnerable victims,” said Det Insp Byrne.

- If you need to contact the DPSU please ring 0469079930