Monday 22 October 2018

Gardaí pretended to be retired colleagues when they cancelled penalty points - GSOC report

No gardaí are expected to be disciplined over the widespread abuses revealed in GSOC report

Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Gardai were able to hide their involvement in the cancellation of penalty points by logging into the Garda computer system using the credentials of retired ex-colleagues.

The shocking practice has been revealed in a report by the Garda Ombudsman, which provides further evidence of the widespread abuse by gardaí of the penalty points system in recent years.

However, no gardaí are expected to be disciplined over the widespread abuses.

The GSOC probe, which took over three-and-a-half years to complete, examined the period between 2009 and 2014. It found:

* Too many members of An Garda Síochána were authorised to cancel fixed charge notices – a total of 442 in the four years;

* Cancellations were carried out by superintendents and inspectors for fixed charge notices outside their geographical area, contrary to policy;

* One officer cancelled 744 fixed charge notices across 17 counties;

* 72pc of all cancelled fixed charge notices cancelled were simply recorded as “cancelled”, giving insufficient rationale for cancellation to allow GSOC ascertain whether this was done in line with proper procedure.

Investigators found that the credentials of retired authorising members, senior gardaí who were authorised to cancel fixed charge notices, were used to make cancellations.

The report said they fact this could have been done illustrated “serious accountability issues with the system”.

Gardaí confirmed to GSOC that there was no documentation available to provide clarification of the cancellations that had been processed using the credentials of retired officers.

The probe was ordered by then Justice Minister Alan Shatter in 2014 after allegations made by whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe came into the public domain.

GSOC investigators received data relating to the issuing of 1.6 million fixed charge notices and 74,373 cancellations of fixed charge notices in the years 2009 to 2012.

Also considered were previous reports by former Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Mahoney, Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy, and the Garda Inspectorate.

The report said GSOC was satisfied the allegations put forward by Sergeant McCabe had considerable merit.

However, it cast doubt over the prospect of anyone being held accountable.

The report said further investigation of cases going back eight years was “unlikely to provide positive outcomes.

The commission also said the cost of pursuing an additional investigation “would not be the best use of public money”.

The lowest quote received by GSOC to undertake this work was “well above the €1m budget allocated” to examining the issue and there would be a significant risk of overspend.

The report also said such an investigation would be hampered by a lack of supporting documentation for a large proportion of the cancellations.

It also said that due to the lapse in time there was no possibility of recovering fines or otherwise sanctioning motorists who had their fixed charge notices cancelled improperly and therefore there would be no financial benefit to the State.

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