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Saturday 30 August 2014

Garda whistleblower makes new charges over penalty points

Published 25/01/2014 | 02:30

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24 Jan 2014;  Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, right, speaking to press (Supt. David Taylor, left).   Press conference relating to the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe.  Dundalk Garda Station, Dundalk, Co. Louth. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

A GARDA whistleblower who is due to give evidence to TDs next week has made a fresh batch of penalty point allegations to the Dail's spending watchdog.

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They include claims a garda arranged for the termination of penalty points for 10 members of his own and extended family.

Several cases where senior gardai allegedly quashed points for other officers are also cited in a letter from the whistleblower, Sgt Maurice McCabe, to the Public Accounts Committee.

Also highlighted are several instances where senior officers allegedly cancelled fixed notice penalty charges even though the offences occurred outside of their district.

ADVICE

The new claims come as Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan awaits legal advice from Attorney General Maire Whelan on whether he can stop Sgt McCabe giving evidence to the committee.

Sources close to the commissioner have indicated he does not want to have to seek a High Court injunction to halt next Thursday's hearing and is hoping that a compromise arrangement can be reached.

The commissioner believes discipline and order within the force will be compromised if a subordinate officer is allowed give evidence to the Oireachtas.

The new allegations are separate to the material supplied to Mr Callinan in a report by the committee's legal adviser, who examined 73 files contained in "a box of evidence" provided by the whistleblower.

The report contains evidence suggesting systematic abuse of the penalty points system by some gardai.

Mr Callinan has denied there is a systematic problem or that the level of cancellations amounted to "a national scandal".

But now a fresh raft of allegations have been made, with Sgt McCabe highlighting 104 further instances of "crazy terminations" which he believes "show no regard for road safety and public money".

Chief among the claims is that a garda from a "high profile" family arranged for points terminations for 10 relatives.

Excuses recorded on the Garda Pulse computer system included "meeting garda" and "driver of some use before".

The terminations continued even after the penalty points controversy emerged in the media in late 2012.

An immediate family member had her points quashed in March last year after being caught driving while on a mobile phone, the letter alleges. The excuse given was that it was an "urgent call to a family member".

Other allegations made in the letter include:

* A "high-profile person" had a speeding detection cancelled on the basis their house had been burgled. But there was no record of the burglary taking place and the offence occurred 200 miles from where the motorist lived.

* A motorist was caught doing 164kph in Co Clare and 140kph four months later in Co Limerick. Both notices were cancelled by a superintendent from another region.

* A male motorist had points cancelled twice in a month, because houses in the area were being flooded and, in the second instance, because a sick child was being brought to hospital.

* A senior garda had points cancelled five times after being caught speeding while off duty in his private car. Twice the cancellation was said to be "on humanitarian grounds".

* A woman caught speeding four times had all points terminated by the same garda on the grounds that she was "an A&E nurse".

* A garda inspector caught doing 59kph in a 50kph zone had his points cancelled by his superintendent "as the speed of 59kph is only nine over the limit".

PAYMENT

A total 486 individual members of the force had discretionary powers which allowed them to terminate fixed charge payment notices. They include 41 chief superintendents, 151 superintendents and 294 inspectors.

However, since August of last year the system has been tightened up and it is no longer possible to terminate fixed charge notices in local garda divisions on the Pulse computer system.

Now all recommendations to cancel notices must be sent to the inspector in charge of the Fixed Charge Processing Office in Thurles, Co Tipperary, who has the final say.

A garda internal audit found all cancellations made last November and December were in line with policy.

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Irish Independent

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