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Saturday 20 September 2014

Ombudsman staff with wiped penalty points to play no part in garda inquiry

Tom Brady, Security Editor

Published 06/02/2014 | 02:30

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Minister For Justice Alan Shatter TD Garda Commisoner Martin Callinan
Minister For Justice Alan Shatter and TD Garda Commisoner Martin Callinan

Garda Ombudsman Commission staff who have had penalty points cancelled have been excluded from involvement in the investigation into corruption allegations against members of the force.

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A fresh investigation, led by the Ombudsman, was announced last week by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

The commission said last night that from the outset it had taken the decision that staff who might have any issues in relation to penalty points could not be involved in the investigation.

It said the selection process for the investigation team was ongoing.

The comments followed the disclosure in the Irish Independent that six commission staff members had penalty points terminated by the gardai.

Senior garda officers granted their appeals against fixed charge penalty notices because the six were on official business when they incurred the points.

Under section 98 of the Garda Siochana Act 2005, which led to the setting up of the Ombudsman Commission, its members have the same powers as gardai when they are on duty and are entitled to seek exemptions for speeding offences. In similar circumstances, gardai are also entitled to seek and be granted a termination of their points.

In seven other cases, the commission said, staff members committed the offences while they were not on official duty and they paid their fines and accepted the penalty points.

POLICY

It had a strict policy that anybody who was not on official business at the time of incurring points must take them.

The Ombudsman's investigation will focus on all cases where points have been terminated. It said its inquiries would be wide-ranging and that it would demand full co-operation.

Mr Shatter confirmed yesterday that during its investigation the Ombudsman would have direct access to the Garda Pulse computer system, without having to operate through a garda seconded to the commission.

Senior garda officers had earlier expressed fears about allowing Ombudsman staff direct access to Pulse because, apart from outlining details of incidents under investigation by gardai, it also contained intelligence about suspected criminals and terrorists which had been given in confidence.

However, Mr Shatter has now directed that the commission should be granted full access to allow it to investigate complaints about penalty point cancellations from two whistleblowers, who had based their allegations on information contained on Pulse.

Irish Independent

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