Internal review after €16k from court poor box used to buy gym equipment for garda station
Gardai have launched an internal review into the purchase of €16,000 worth of gym equipment for a garda station which was bought using funding from a District Court poor box.
The review is also examining a €27,000 poor box payment used by the same station to buy a mini-bus for a community policing initiative.
The money for the bus was raised through two separate poor box payments from the District Court and Circuit Court.
Concerns about the payments were raised with senior gardai in recent days and are now being examined by Garda Headquarters.
Central to the review are concerns that proper procurement rules may not have been followed in the purchasing of the minibus and gym equipment.
It is understood the station at the centre of the internal review previously had a gym on site but this was closed to make way for a locker room for female gardai.
The decision to close the gym was unpopular with some members of the force.
In the past year, a building attached to the station was converted into a gym for the gardai.
As part of the effort to reinstate a gym at the station, a request was made to the local district court for poor box funding to buy equipment.
The request for the money is believed to have been made through a garda social club.
The judge granted the request late last year, according to a source familiar with the matter.
There is no suggestion the judge acted improperly in approving the funding to gardai.
However, senior gardai are concerned the money was used to make purchases which did not adhere to procurement rules for state agencies.
A garda spokesperson said: "This particular matter is subject to an internal review. In general, the decision on how money from the poor box is spent on particular projects is a matter for the presiding judge."
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan last year committed to abolishing the court poor box systems as he believes it "is no longer a fit place in justice administration".
More than €1.5m was raised through payments to court poor boxes in 2016, which was an increase on the almost €1.3m raised from the fines in 2015. In 2014, €2.1m from poor box payments and €1.9m in 2013.
Defendants are generally told by judges today into a court's poor box in lieu of a more serious penalty. The direction usually arises for minor offences which would not result in a custodial sentence.
Public order offences are the most common crimes for which the poor box option is given to defendants.
These include breaches of the peace, intoxication or disorderly conduct in a public place, threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour in a public place or failing to comply with a direction from An Garda Siochana.
It is sometimes used for road traffic offences, first time, minor drug offences and offences against property or animals.
Judges regularly directs poor box payments to the Garda Benevolent Fund which provides financial support to the family of gardai.