independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Six Garda watchdog staff had their penalty points wiped

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter

SIX staff members of the Garda Ombudsman Commission have had their penalty points terminated by 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.

Since 2007, there have been 15 incidents involving 13 staff members.

One involved a vehicle with a Northern Ireland licence plate and another notice was terminated because of an error. In seven cases, staff members committed the offences while they were not on official duty and they paid their fines and accepted the penalty points. Appeals against the rest were made by staff on the grounds that they were on business at the time and those were granted by senior gardai in line with the legislation.

An Ombudsman spokesman said they had a strict policy that anybody who was not on official business at the time of incurring points must take them. Asked if their cases would be included in the investigation about to be launched by the Ombudsman Commission into the penalty points controversy, the spokesman said their inquiries would include all cases where points had been terminated. Justice Minister Alan Shatter asked the Ombudsman to head up a fresh investigation as he deemed it to be in the public interest.

The Ombudsman Commission said its investigation would be "very wide-ranging" and welcomed the Minister's call for parties to allow it to proceed unhindered with its work.

It expected and would be demanding full and immediate co-operation from all parties.

GARDA RESERVE

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that members of the Garda Reserve now have the power to issue fixed charge penalty notices and serve summonses.

It is one of a range of new measures introduced to the Reserve following an internal review carried out by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Its powers and functions have been extended to such areas as domestic violence, child protection, conflict resolution and garda policy on bullying and harassment.Reserve members have also been given powers under the Public Order Acts in relation to the seizure of vehicles and are being issued with Tetra radios when going on duty.

But Mr Shatter said yesterday it was not intended to further extend their powers.

Irish Independent

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