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Friday 22 August 2014

Garda 'quashed points for 10 relatives'

PHILIP RYAN and JIM CUSACK

Published 30/12/2012 | 05:00

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A serving garda officer quashed penalty points for 10 members of his own family, according to a dossier compiled by a whistleblower that is currently being investigated by the Garda Commissioner.

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The document also alleges that a garda inspector in Dublin quashed six tickets for one family outside his jurisdiction without consulting the garda who issued the penalty points.

Further claims show that a motorist caught driving at 220kmh in a 120kmh zone with no seat belt on was not issued with penalty points after the offence.

It also alleges that a judge and their spouse had four speeding tickets quashed between them.

The traffic offences outlined in the whistleblower's report have been registered in the Garda Pulse system but in many instances not followed up with formal summons or fixed-notice tickets.

The Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has appointed Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahony to investigate the claims that more than 66,000 penalty points were quashed by gardai without following protocol

The new details that have emerged are sure to increase pressure on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to hold a public inquiry into how the Garda Pulse system is operated by members of the force.

Along with Mr Shatter, the whistleblower's dossier has also been sent to the Taoiseach and the Garda Commissioner.

The two whistleblowers who reported their claims to the authorities have been formally censured by the Garda Commissioner and are barred from using the Garda Pulse system.

Last week, the Sunday Independent revealed that one of the whistleblowers had also compiled a 350-page report detailing more serious offences – including sexual offences and drug charges – that were not properly investigated by gardai.

Mr Shatter said last week that a solicitor acting on behalf of a garda sergeant has written to him regarding a number of allegations.

A spokeswoman said the Justice Department and the garda's solicitor are still in correspondence on the issue and it would not be appropriate for them to comment at this time.

Senior gardai say that in many instances of the reported quashing of fixed-charge motoring offences there have been suspicions of over- zealous behaviour, sometimes bordering on entrapment, by the traffic corps.

In one case, a number of penalty tickets were cancelled after it was claimed gardai in an unmarked car had driven at 20 miles per hour in a traffic lane, causing several impatient motorists to move into a bus lane and overtake on the left.

The frequent setting up of 'traps', particularly in slip-roads off motorways and other main roads, is also a cause of concern among local gardai, who have to deal with complaints by irate motorists.

The Garda Traffic Corps unofficially sets targets for the issuing of penalty notices, which have been running at about 400,000 annually. Its high rates of prosecution, though, are causing widespread disillusionment within the force, which relies on public support in tackling crime.

However, traffic corps gardai respond by saying that the high levels of policing have led to a major decline in deaths and injuries on the roads.

The death rate has fallen from 458 in 1998 to just over 160 this year.

Last year, 460,000 people were prosecuted for road traffic offences. This year, the figure will again be close to around 400,000, with 315,000 having been prosecuted up to the end of September.

Sunday Independent

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