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Sunday 21 September 2014

Garda 'let drivers off penalty points, including sports star'

Shane Phelan and Tom Brady

Published 28/11/2012 | 05:00

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GARDAI have launched an internal investigation into claims a senior officer abused his powers to write off penalty points for motorists, including a leading sports star.

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An assistant commissioner has been appointed to probe the 'whistleblower' claims, which have been made by a garda sergeant against a superintendent.

The allegations being probed include claims that the penalty points of an international sportsman were quashed without good reason. The superintendent is also alleged to have written off the penalty points of a number of other people.

Additional claims have been made about the conduct of other officers in different areas around the country.

However, so far, the focus of the internal garda investigation is limited to one superintendent and one garda district.

District superintendents have the power to adjudicate on and cancel penalty points if it is shown they were issued in error or if there are extenuating circumstances involved, such as a medical emergency.

They can intervene if written to by a motorist who wishes to appeal the points levied against them.

The only other avenue of appeal is through the courts.

However, it is claimed the officer at the centre of the probe cancelled the points of several motorists when he should not have intervened.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has appointed Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney to investigate the claims and he is due to report back in the coming months.

The whistleblower has made a detailed statement and officers are now working their way back through penalty point cases where the superintendent is alleged to have intervened.

Each case under review involves a paper trail and it must be demonstrated that any decision to cancel points was warranted.

'Whistleblower'

The superintendent, who is based in a rural district, has not been suspended and is continuing in his normal duties.

The 'whistleblower' sergeant has also outlined the allegations in meetings with officials from the Department of Transport and the Road Safety Authority.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar subsequently referred the matter to the Department of Justice.

"We have received those allegations, which I take seriously," Mr Varadkar told the Dail last night. "However, they are allegations and they need to be investigated."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said it is "reviewing certain allegations" but that it would be inappropriate to comment while the "minister is awaiting a report from the Garda Commissioner on this matter".

A spokesman for the Road Safety Authority said it had formally referred matters to the Garda Ombudsman. However, the ombudsman said it was unable to take action as it did not deal with complaints made by gardai against the force.

Irish Independent

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