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Sunday 30 April 2017

Radical reform of gardaí makes further revelations of bad practice 'inevitable' - Garda Commissioner breaks silence on failings

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has said today that discrepancies in garda records of drink-driving tests and issues with the penalty points systems were 'totally unacceptable'.

Ms O'Sullivan has made her first public statement following news this week that more than 14,500 people who were prosecuted for road traffic offences are to have their convictions quashed because of garda error.

Furthermore, the number of drink-driving tests carried out between 2011 and 2016 was exaggerated by over 937,000.

In a lengthy statement this afternoon the garda commissioner pledged further investigations into both matters and said corrective action had been taken.

But given the 'radical reform' she was seeking as commissioner revelations of further bad practise in the force were inevitable she warned.

"We’re looking at a problem that goes back more than a decade,” the Garda Commissioner said today. "This is an issue – as the Authority has pointed out – which is more than systemic. It’s about ethics.  It’s about supervision.  It’s about measurement.  Most of all, it’s about trust," Ms O'Sullivan said today.

"What we’ve found thus far is totally unacceptable and not in keeping with the standards of a modern and professional police service.

"The Policing Authority and Garda management are ad idem that this is a matter of individual and collective ethical behaviour and not one of occasional systems failure. 

"It is a matter of grave disappointment that this has apparently been happening for so long, unchallenged.  Every single member of the organisation must recognise that their individual actions, in all areas of policing, reflects on the organisation as a whole and impacts on the trust between ourselves and the communities we serve. 

"However, as evidenced this week, I am determined that where we identify problems in the organisation, we admit these issues publicly, take whatever corrective action is necessary and ensure they do not recur.  That is what I expect of the organisation and what is demanded of us by the community.”

New processes and systems are in place for gathering and collating statistics on breath testing to obviate the possibility of recurrence of the discrepancies found in an internal investigation since last April garda management confirmed.

A further policing authority review will now take place which will look at control measures and whether current processes regarding roadside breath testing are "in line with best practice".

Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan will also lead a team which will analyse the work done to date and probe whether the failings were down to individuals or were systematic.

An Garda Síochána will provide an initial report to the Policing Authority on this work within one month.

Meanwhile, the Garda Internal Audit Section has also been tasked with examining the computer issue which led to wrongful legal cases being taken against drivers and their findings will be provided to the Authority on completion.

A helpline for people who may have been affected is due to be in place by April 3.

The Tanaiste and the policing authority are also due to receive a detailed report including a time-line of when all issues were flagged.

"We have taken corrective action,” Ms O’Sullivan said. 

"We are asking that the corrective action be externally validated.  That will reassure the public.  However, it is important to state at this point that when an organisation like An Garda Síochána is on a journey of radical reform, as it is under my Commissionership, it is inevitable that we will identify more examples of bad practice. 

"In addition to correcting these issues, we must share that information, no matter how negative it is, not just with the Authority, but also with the public.  Only through that openness can we sustain public trust.”

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News Jim O'Callaghan, Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman said the statement was unacceptable.

"We don't need more enquiries... we need an explanation," he said.

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