Three gardaí to face disciplinary proceedings over quashing penalty points

Wednesday 15 May 2013 23.44
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan says he will implement the recommendations in the report
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan says he will implement the recommendations in the report

Three out of 113 garda officers who cancelled penalty points are facing disciplinary proceedings according to the garda report on the controversy published this afternoon.

The report was carried out by Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Mahony.

It found no evidence to suggest any act of criminality, corruption, deception or falsification as alleged by the anonymous author, who submitted two documents listing alleged irregularities.

The report says the vast majority of fixed notice charges for road traffic offences - almost 96% - were processed through the garda system without being terminated.

The investigation was carried out after the Department of Justice sent anonymous documents to the Garda Commissioner about widespread abuse of the penalty points system.

Today's report says the documents contained 189 allegations relating to 2,198 fixed charge notices.

An average of 10,701 notices were terminated every year by gardaí employing discretionary power.

The report says some were terminated automatically because the offender was a juvenile, some because of a systems error and others, which were for tax and insurance offences, were terminated once these matters were found to be in order or a vehicle had changed ownership.

The report found that 123 had been terminated for members of the gardaí and seven for people who had a family connection to a garda.

It found that 2.57% of more than 1.46m fixed charge notices between January 2009 and June 2012 were terminated by authorised officers.

95.4% were processed without being terminated.

Three officers who terminated 661 notices are now facing disciplinary proceedings because some of these may not have been conducted strictly within policy and procedure.

The two predominant areas of procedural failings identified are the failure to create and retain audit material and cases where officers terminated penalty points for offences detected outside their districts.

In relation to public figures, the report found that two sports personalities had three notices terminated, a print journalist had two terminated, and a retired garda assistant commissioner had three terminated, all within policy and procedure.

However, a district court judge had three notices terminated on the basis of verbal petitions, and although audit material was created, proper procedure would have dictated the creation and retention of a more complete file.

The report also found that a sports journalist’s notice was terminated on compassionate grounds outside policy and procedure.

The report concludes, however, that allegations surrounding criminal conduct by any of the senior officers in question cannot be substantiated to any degree.

It also says had the anonymous author access to more complete information he/she may have found perfectly reasonable and legitimate rationale for the termination of the great majority of these notices he/she so forcefully alleges are corrupt

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan says he will implement the recommendations in the report.

Commissioner Callinan has already announced that access to the garda PULSE computer system is being tightened up following the investigation.

One of the TDs who first raised the penalty point issue, Clare Daly of the ULA, has rejected the findings of the reports, saying there was no evidence anywhere in Irish history of an internal inquiry coming out with conclusions that are independent.

She said there still needed to be an outside inquiry to establish the full facts.

Ms Daly said she and her colleagues were not surprised at the outcome of an internal investigation conducted by senior gardaí into allegations on other senior gardaí.

She said there needed to be an investigation by outsiders who were not connected to the Gardaí.

Shatter says no evidence of corruption

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter this afternoon said that while the report showed some administrative difficulties, it was very clear there was no evidence of garda corruption.

He said some of the decisions made - a small minority - "defy logic and common sense".

But, he said, it was important to exercise a degree of compassion and common sense.

Asked about claims the reports were a whitewash, Mr Shatter asked what else the Opposition would say.

He accused an independent TD who criticised the report five hours before it was published of playing "silly political games".

He said he did not think there had ever been such a comprehensive report finished so quickly.

Calls for independent investigation

Opposition TDs who received the allegations last year claimed that honest gardaí had "uncovered the systematic abuse of motoring charges and terminations to some powerful and influential people in the State" and a number of people including a journalist, a judge and a sportsman were named in the Dáil.

The TDs also published 20 anonymous examples of cancelled penalty points and called for an independent inquiry.

One of two whistleblowers who first raised concerns about the quashing of penalty points has also called for an independent investigation into the matter.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Pat Kenny, retired garda John Wilson said that an internal inquiry was not appropriate.

Mr Wilson called for a High Court judge to carry out an inquiry.

"This is a scandal, you cannot have guards investigating guards, it doesn't make sense. I am calling for an independent investigation into the allegations that I have made and the allegations that my colleague has made," he said.

Independent TD Mick Wallace said reports of the contents of the review appeared to constitute a whitewash, although he admitted he had not seen the review yet.

Speaking on the same programme, Mr Wallace said they had evidence of tens of thousands of penalty points wiped between 2008 and 2012 although the review apparently refers to hundreds.

He also said there was a complete lack of protection for the two whistleblowers within the gardaí who came forward.

'Ming' Flanagan refused to engage further with gardaí - Shatter

Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter released a statement alleging that Independent TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan has refused to engage further with gardaí investigating his quashed penalty points.

He said this has stopped gardaí completing his investigation.

He said: "I am disappointed but not entirely surprised that Deputy Flanagan, despite all his public statements and having written a very self-serving letter to me on the 21 March 2013 regarding the matter, naming individuals he claimed were involved and stating that he believed 'the truth about the situation must be established' and that he 'would have a very strong argument for having the points removed', is unwilling to engage further with the Garda investigation."

Responding to Mr Shatter's criticism on Twitter, Mr Flanagan has insisted that no meeting between him and gardaí on the issue of the cancellation of his penalty points was either arranged or cancelled.

Mr Flanagan said, however, that he refused to engage with an investigation whereby "the gardaí investigate themselves".

He called for an independent investigation into the facts.