Wednesday 22 November 2017

Breath test figures 'hugely exaggerated', gardaí admit

Human error and system flaws are blamed for wrong figures. Photo: Collins
Human error and system flaws are blamed for wrong figures. Photo: Collins
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Gardaí have admitted that figures posted on their official website about the number of breath tests carried out on drivers over three years were hugely exaggerated.

The wrong figures have been attributed to human error and flaws in the system of compiling and logging the numbers.

According to garda officers last night, the increase on the real figures ran into "thousands".

In relation to one period, it was discovered that the figures for roadside breath tests alleged to have been carried out was bigger than the total number of mouthpieces available to the force at that time.

A fresh mouthpiece must be used for each individual test, an officer pointed out.

An investigation was carried out after the errors were spotted in 2015. As a result, breath tests figures for last year were accurate.

But the numbers published on the website for 2013, 2014 and 2015 all represented a significant increase on the actual figures.

Gardaí told the Irish Independent that the errors had no impact on the overall number of motorists recorded for failing a breath test. This is because the final analysis depended on the testing that took place in the garda station.

But they acknowledged that the extent of the errors was very embarrassing for the force.

As a result of the investigation, gardaí said, the system used to record the roadside tests had now been tightened up and personnel had been warned to be more careful in putting the figures together.

But investigators were satisfied that the false numbers were not the result of a deliberate attempt to exaggerate the number of tests but were due to a series of human error and system flaws.

The full extent of the blunders will be revealed this morning when gardaí hold a media briefing on the website blunders.

Among those attending the briefing will be Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn, who was appointed last year to take charge of roads policing and major event/emergency planning.

The briefing will also be used by the gardaí to outline how they are coping with previously identified problems with issuing fixed charge notices for penalty point offences through the post.

Many offenders facing penalty points had their offences struck out in district court hearings after telling the judge that they had not received their fixed penalty notices in the post.

Separately, a new recruitment for reserve members of An Garda Síochána will be announced today.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: "This new campaign is necessary to fulfil the Programme for Government commitment to increase the strength of the Garda Reserve to 2,000 by 2021, to act in a supportive role undertaking local patrols and crime reduction measures."

Mrs Fitzgerald said that the aim is to recruit 300 reserves in 2017.

She added: "Reserve members have undergone training in many of the skills required to be an effective, full-time member of An Garda Síochána and it is important that we build on the very real contribution that they are making to the policing of communities right across the country."

Applications must be made through www.publicjobs.ie.

The closing date for applications is Thursday, April 13.

Irish Independent

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