Thursday 23 October 2014

Political probe into garda corruption allegations would have backfired

Published 28/01/2014 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was called to appear before the Public Accounts Committee over the penalty points controversy

ALLOWING politicians to investigate serious allegations of corruption levelled by gardai against other members of the force would have set a dangerous precedent.

It would have been even more dangerous if those allegations were based solely on tit-bits gleaned from a random trawl of the information contained on the force's internal Pulse computer system.

Pulse is used to record initial reports of incidents or complaints under investigation by gardai but it is not intended to provide the full picture.

Basing an inquiry into potentially very damaging accusations solely on a reference lodged in Pulse is similar to initiating an investigation into the contents of a very lengthy and detailed report but depending for information about the contents on a couple of tweets.

Apart from early information, Pulse also stores intelligence, but it does not have the background on any incident and never contains a full file.

The allegations against the officers is based on a trawl through Pulse without the fuller picture being available to those making the random checks.

This system of checks inevitably ends up with errors, as was witnessed last week when a well-known GAA management figure was said to have had his penalty points terminated by a senior officer.

Gardai later disclosed that the person involved was not the GAA man but had a similar name.

The decision by Justice Minister Alan Shatter to bring in the Garda Ombudsman Commission to carry out an independent investigation looks certain to avoid a very public and possibly legal spat between the Dail Public Accounts Committee and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, a row which neither side wants.

But it will not be a simple task for the Ombudsman. It took Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Mahony five months to complete his penalty points report, even though he had the help of five chiefs and six superintendents.

And they were equipped with the vital knowledge of how to navigate their way through the Pulse system.

Irish Independent

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