Damning reports heap pressure on embattled force
Scandals ‘damaging to public confidence’ and ‘unacceptable’
A damning report on the recording of almost 1.5 million bogus breath tests has found the inflation of the data by Garda members "reflects poorly" on the professionalism of the force and is "damaging to public confidence".
Amid renewed calls from Opposition parties for the Garda Commissioner to go, the Government has insisted it still has "full confidence" in Nóirín O'Sullivan.
Last night, Ms O'Sullivan said the failures identified in the two internal Garda reports on the breath test issue and 14,700 wrongful traffic convictions were "unacceptable" but insisted changes have already been introduced to the systems involved.
Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan led the probe in relation to both issues.
The breath test report stated that it's reasonable for the public to expect accurate figures and robust governance of the data and says: "The failure to ensure that this occurred reflects poorly on the professionalism with which this organisation discharged its responsibilities.
"That the evidence also suggests members of An Garda Síochána were also engaged in inflating this data, whether intentional or unintentional, is even more damaging to public confidence," it added.
The breath test report found that 1,458,221 fake tests were recorded on the Garda Pulse system between June 2009 and April 2017, around 500,000 more than previously thought.
The report identified three main factors that potentially caused the discrepancies - issues relating to the recording of details on the Garda IT system, suspected breath test inflation, and estimates of the number of tests carried out at a checkpoint.
This appears to have occurred when gardaí contacted the force's call centre and estimated the number of negative breath tests that were carried out.
While the report indicates that some Garda members may face disciplinary action, it also said the Garda examination team "did not discover any behaviour that would merit criminal investigation".
The report also pointed to cutbacks in resources to gardaí during the years in question and a decrease in the number of frontline supervisors.
Meanwhile, the report on wrongful convictions arising from issues in the fixed charge penalty notices (FCPN) system was also released last night.
In it, Garda management called on the Government to dramatically reduce the number of road traffic offences which result in motorists receiving penalty points.
It lays bare the huge problems faced by gardaí in administering penalty points to drivers caught breaking road safety laws.
The report reveals that the vast majority of motoring offences have never been used by gardaí to penalise drivers in breach of strict motoring laws.
Even more worryingly, the report found recruits have been given no training on the penalty points system for more than 12 years and, as a result, most gardaí know very little about the administration of fixed charge penalty notices (FCPN).
In the vast majority of 14,700 cases of wrongful convictions, motorists were given court summons for penalty point offences when they were never issued a fixed charge notice in the first place.