Saturday 24 February 2018

Gardai can't find record of Shatter checkpoint

Pressure on minister as questions raised over behaviour to officer

Alan Shatter TD
Alan Shatter TD
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

GARDAI can't find any written record or report of the checkpoint at which the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter allegedly drove off after failing to complete a breath sample.

The disclosure follows claims that a separate garda report documenting Mr Shatter's behaviour at the checkpoint did exist, adding more confusion to the sharply conflicting accounts of what happened on the night he was stopped.

Opposition TDs called on the Justice Minister last week to publish both the garda report on Mr Shatter and the separate report generated by the mandatory garda checkpoint.

But garda sources said this weekend that a trawl of the electronic and written records failed to produce any report or log of the checkpoint on Pembroke Street.

The missing log adds another layer of confusion to Mr Shatter's checkpoint encounter at which he was said to have been unco-operative with a female garda.

The controversy kicked off last week when unnamed sources briefed opposition TDs on Mr Shatter's allegedly questionable behaviour when he was stopped at a garda checkpoint.

Mr Shatter has insisted he behaved properly at the checkpoint and said that the Garda Commissioner confirmed that a search of the garda computer system had failed to locate a report on the incident.

However, although garda sources say they have identified three serving members who were on duty at the checkpoint, they have spoken to just one of them.

The Sunday Independent understands that the female garda who dealt with Mr Shatter is on leave but was telephoned by gardai hours after the checkpoint incident was raised in the Dail by Mattie McGrath last Thursday week.

According to sources, she first told her colleagues that she thought she filed the report before finally recalling that she did file it. A senior officer who was present at the checkpoint had advised her to write it up after Mr Shatter drove away.

It is understood that the two other gardai who were identified as being on duty at the checkpoint have not been questioned about either the existence of a report on the incident or for their account of what happened.

Garda sources say that her report on the incident should have been logged and recorded electronically in the superintendent's correspondence log. But they say no record of it exists, either electronic or manual.

On top of that, sources said that they cannot find any record of the checkpoint on Pembroke Street, despite a trawl of the manual and electronic documents.

Gardai must generate a report on all mandatory checkpoints.

One source said that this suggests that the checkpoint at which Mr Shatter was stopped was not a mandatory checkpoint.

"There is no record of it and the view now is that the checkpoint was not mandatory," said the source.

Mr Shatter's checkpoint encounter was revealed by Mr McGrath after an informed source briefed him on what transpired.

Further details published last week elaborated on the encounter, claiming that Mr Shatter told the female garda: "Don't you know who I am?"

He appeared to be unco-operative and that before driving away, he said to her: "Check your law book, it's in the Constitution, you cannot stop me, I am going."

Mr Shatter said that he couldn't complete the breath test as he had asthma, said he was on his way home from the Dail and was then "waved on" by gardai. However, Mr McGrath has disputed this, saying that his information was that there was no mention of asthma and Mr Shatter was not "waved on" but drove away.

During a motion of no confidence in Mr Shatter last week, Mr McGrath challenged Mr Shatter to explicitly say whether his behaviour towards gardai was cordial and if he attempted to use the constitutional privilege available to TDs coming to and from the Dail to avoid arrest. "We know he did, I know he did. It has been put to me that he did," he said.

Mr Shatter comfortably survived the motion of no confidence, debated last Tuesday and Wednesday, with Fine Gael and Labour rallying around him.

Michael Noonan, the Finance Minister, rounded on the opposition, claiming that "a venial sin has been turned into a hanging offence".

However, opposition TDs said that Mr Shatter still had questions to answer.

Niall Collins, Fianna Fail's justice spokesman, said he plans to question the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan on what he knows about Mr Shatter's checkpoint encounter during his next appearance before the Dail's justice committee.

He said that Mr Shatter still had not answered the questions, and in the Dail last week asked the Justice Minister to request the Garda Commissioner to produce a retrospective report on what transpired at the checkpoint.

Independent TDs also plan to ask the Oireachtas justice committee to request the Garda Commissioner and senior officers to answer questions on it.

"This is just not good enough. They can say they have no record of the two files, one on the checkpoint and the separate garda report.

"I have been contacted by a number of people who are annoyed by this and are planning to make complaints to the Garda Ombudsman," said Mr McGrath, who added that he was also considering making a complaint.

Sunday Independent

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