Saturday 20 January 2018

Fake breath tests 'inflated four-fold' as pressure grows on Commissioner

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is under pressure. Photo: Mark Condren
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is under pressure. Photo: Mark Condren
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The fake breath-test figures that have plunged An Garda Síochána into a major crisis were inflated more than four-fold in parts of Dublin, the Irish Independent has learned.

In one Garda division, the figures are suspected of being overstated by a staggering 430pc in a move that has caused consternation in Garda Headquarters.

It emerged last night that a number of senior officers in some of the worst offending districts have apologised to Garda management for the scale of the discrepancies that occurred under their watch.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has directed one of her most senior officers to produce a report on the scale of the falsification of breath-test figures within one month.

Gardaí have also begun the process of writing to the 14,700 motorists wrongly slapped with fixed-charge notices.

But Ms O'Sullivan is facing major new questions over whether the suspected deception within the force has led to bogus figures in several areas other than traffic.

Revelations by the Irish Independent on Saturday that the force's homicide figures are now in doubt have piled enormous pressure on the embattled Garda chief.

Read more: Revealed: Garda murder figures are now in doubt as crime analysts launch major review

Crime analysts attached to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) are probing whether more than 40 cases have been wrongly classified.

There has also been reports that figures produced in relation to domestic violence are seriously flawed.

Fianna Fáil TD and member of the Oireachtas Justice Committee Jack Chambers last night demanded an immediate disclosure to the Policing Authority if other areas have been impacted by false figures.

"The constant rumours, reports and uncertainty about investigations and reviews into different statistics is concerning and not helpful.

"What we need is transparency and full disclosure now to the Policing Authority in this regard," Mr Chambers told the Irish Independent.

"What's most important is that public trust in our police service is re-established and that morale within An Garda Síochána is restored.

"This can only happen if we get all the detail and all the information about senior management's fears of what else is to come to light."

Meanwhile, the North's former police ombudsman said a commission of inquiry staffed with international experts was needed to restore public trust in the force.

Nuala O'Loan described the revelations of one million false breath tests as "mind-boggling" and said she believed it was likely that the bad practices had seeped into many other areas outside of traffic.

"The whole planning and funding of the guards is predicated on the work that they do and it seems unlikely to me that erroneous statistics are going to be limited to these three or four areas," she told RTÉ's 'This Week' programme.

Ms O'Loan was strongly critical of the response from Garda management to the discovery of the discrepancies.

"They should have moved much faster. As soon as they became aware of it. As soon as you realise that your police force is putting people before the courts who shouldn't be there, there should be immediate action," she said.

"You should be talking to the courts immediately, starting to write the letters, starting to alert people that this has been wrongly done."

Meanwhile, the Fianna Fáil frontbench will meet tomorrow to discuss the party's next move.

The party still has no confidence in the Commissioner but is unlikely to back a Sinn Féin no confidence motion being tabled next week.

Fianna Fáil's newest TD Stephen Donnelly rejected claims that the party's position on the Commissioner was influenced by fears of another general election.

Irish Independent

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