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Monday 22 September 2014

Probe gardai 'cleared 600 licences'

Published 15/05/2013 | 16:36

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Three gardai were directly involved in wiping penalty points for drivers on 661 occasions between January 2009 and June 2012, an inquiry found

Three senior Garda officers under investigation over the quashing of penalty points had cleared more than 600 driving licences in the last few years, an internal inquiry has found.

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The probe into the controversy found the actions of the unnamed gardai - a superintendent and two inspectors - may constitute a breach of Garda discipline rules. The three were directly involved in wiping penalty points for drivers on 661 occasions between January 2009 and June 2012.

Garda assistant commissioner Fintan Fanning has been charged with determining whether disciplinary action should be taken against the officers. A separate investigation is ongoing into a fourth officer involved in clearing penalties for drivers.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said many of the more serious allegations levelled by two whistleblowers - including claims that motorists involved in road deaths had points cleared - had not been substantiated.

"For individuals who had family members who suffered fatalities, it was a particularly serious thing to allege that perhaps that accident would not have occurred, or that fatality may not have happened if someone had been required to pay a fixed ticket charge," he said.

Mr Shatter said a number of the allegations made "don't stand up" and warned whistle blowers they have a responsibility to the public not to make "wildly inaccurate claims". The suggestion there was corruption rife in the Garda was a very serious allegation and, as such, was taken very seriously, but it did not stand up after investigation, he insisted.

But he said he was concerned about cases where it appears clearly laid out procedures for the cancellation of penalty were not followed, including by superintendents for offences outside their own districts. "It also appears that, in some cases, detailed records were not maintained," he added. Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has agreed to tighten up rules around the quashing of penalty points without delay.

The internal inquiry, denounced by critics as a whitewash, was launched after two whistle blowers presented TDs with a dossier on alleged incidents of improper clearing of penalty points last year. The investigation found: there were 66,407 cases of penalties quashed over the period under investigation; some 37,384 of those cleared were by Garda officers using their "discretionary" powers; about one in 10 (11%) cases where points were terminated was done so improperly, or not strictly within procedures, according to a random audit carried out as part of the inquiry.

But the six-month Garda investigation did not uncover any evidence of criminality or corruption within its own ranks. It also ruled out serious wrongdoing in the case of a number of public figures linked to the controversy.

But John Wilson, a retired garda with more than 30 years service and who was one of two officers to act as whistleblowers, called for a High Court judge to carry out an independent inquiry into his allegations. "This is a scandal," he said. "You can't have a garda investigating gardai. It does not make sense."

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