Minister for Justice pledges major changes to penalty points system

Wednesday 12 March 2014 09.48
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter commissioned the report after the publication of an internal garda report
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter commissioned the report after the publication of an internal garda report

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said there will be major changes as a result of the Garda Inspectorate's report into the operation of the penalty points system.

The inspectorate has strongly criticised the way in which gardaí operate the penalty points system.

RTÉ News has learned that the report has recommended that the power to cancel all penalty points be removed from divisional officers and transferred solely to the Fixed Charge Processing Office in Co Tipperary.

The report, entitled 'The Fixed Charge Processing System: A 21st Century Strategy', is also critical of the garda auditing system in relation to penalty points.

It recommends a tightening up of procedures that allow for penalty points to be cancelled for gardaí on duty.

The report, which was commissioned by the minister following the publication of an internal garda report, is due to be published tomorrow.

Minister Shatter told RTÉ's Six One News that he could not go into detail of the report's content until he had briefed Cabinet tomorrow, but said there is now a comprehensive roadmap to ensure the total integrity and full confidence in the fixed ticket charge system. 

He said it is going to require a substantial amount of change being implemented which affects the Garda Síochána, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transport, the Road Safety Authority and the Courts Service.

Mr Shatter said there is now a need for a coordinated response to implement recommendations received which will, in addition, require some additional legislation to amend the current road traffic acts.

The minister said the report shows that there is major administrative dysfunction, a failure of management oversight and that these are all issues which need to be addressed.

Report highlights lack of procedure

The Garda Inspectorate spent eight months investigating how the penalty points system works in practice and how it could be improved.

Similar to an investigation by Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney, it highlights incidents where detailed records were not maintained and clearly laid out procedures were not followed, where for example tickets were cancelled by superintendents outside their own garda districts.

The report also identified an issue with penalty points being cancelled for members of the gardaí. Although this is permitted in law for gardaí on duty, the report recommends that procedures on this should be tightened up.

It recommends improvements in garda audit systems as detailed records in relation to the reasons for the cancellation of penalty points were not, in many cases, maintained.

The report highlights difficulties with fixed charge penalty notices in relation to company and hire cars, which may need to be addressed by legislation.

The Garda Inspectorate report validates changes to the penalty points system recommended in two garda reports and also makes its own additional recommendations for change.

The Garda Inspectorate does not have the statutory remit to make findings of wrongdoing against any member of the force or private citizens.