Wednesday 22 October 2014

Revenue loss from cancelled fines hit €720k in 10 months

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Published 24/01/2014 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan (front), with, from left, Deputy Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan and Assistant Commisioners John Twomey and John O'Mahony

EVIDENCE suggesting systematic abuse of the penalty points system by some gardai is contained in a report compiled by the Dail's spending watchdog.

A copy of the confidential document, which analyses 73 files provided to the Public Accounts Committee by a garda whistleblower, has been given to Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

It sets out in detail a range of spurious reasons given by members of the force for cancelling fixed penalty notices and calculates that the loss of revenue from terminated fines was €720,000 in the first 10 months of 2012 alone.

It also shows how, on dozens of occasions, no reason was recorded at all for the cancellation of points.

The document, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, is set to pile further pressure on the embattled commissioner.

The commissioner has also been given a letter written to the committee by the whistleblower, garda sergeant Maurice McCabe, which alleges over 200 senior officers terminated fixed charge notices inappropriately and in most cases corruptly.

The whistleblower claims 14 senior gardai terminated fines to the value of €1m, with one officer responsible for nearly €80,000 in lost revenue alone. Sgt McCabe has accepted an invitation to appear before the committee next week, but Mr Callinan is considering taking legal action to stop him. The report provided to Mr Callinan yesterday was compiled by an Oireachtas legal adviser who analysed the files, dating from 2011 and 2012, contained in "a box of evidence" supplied to the PAC by Sgt McCabe.

The report details how:

* A senior garda cancelled the points of different members of the one family on six occasions. A variety of reasons were given, including that one person's details were "entered in error" and that there was confusion about speed signs.

* A senior garda cancelled points of a husband and a wife on the basis there was an intruder in their house. But there was no record of the presence of an intruder.

SPEEDING

* A speeding fine and points were quashed by a senior garda on the grounds the motorist was on their way for an NCT test. However, the NCT centre confirmed the car was not tested that day.

* A detective inspector had points cancelled on the basis he was on his way to court. However, the court wasn't sitting on that day.

* An off-duty garda had points cancelled on the grounds he was responding to a call. But the officer was actually on sick leave.

* A garda was off-duty and driving a Ford Transit van when he was detected speeding. He asked his supervisor to mark him on duty so the points could be terminated.

* A superintendent cancelled five fines for a garda, but the circumstances were only partially explained or not explained at all.

* A garda superintendent had four speeding fines quashed by three other senior officers. He twice claimed to be on duty, but on two other occasions no reason was recorded.

* A garda superintendent quashed two separate fines for a motorist caught driving using a mobile phone even though the offences occurred in a different garda district.

* An unknown number of senior gardai were involved in quashing points received by a motorist for three offences, including not wearing a seat belt and running a red light.

* An allegation was also made that a garda arranged for 10 members of his extended family to have their points quashed. However, this has yet to be examined by the committee.

Records identifying the gardai involved are now missing and no reason was given for the setting aside of the points.

Mr Callinan confirmed yesterday that Sgt McCabe was no longer allowed unfettered access to the Garda Pulse computer system, where the records were sourced.

"I have asked that he be supervised when he now uses Pulse. I have very good reasons for this," said Mr Callinan, who said the whistleblower had spent "countless and endless hours searching and printing" while on duty.

"That is clearly wrong," Mr Callinan said.

Irish Independent

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