Wednesday 21 March 2018

Fitzgerald stands by Garda Commissioner but warns her to put 'robust' systems in place

Frances Fitzgerald has been urged to reveal when she was informed about a scandal involving thousands of wrongful road traffic convictions
Frances Fitzgerald has been urged to reveal when she was informed about a scandal involving thousands of wrongful road traffic convictions

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has warned the Garda Commissioner that “robust” systems need to be put in place to avoid a repeat of the major blunder in recording of roadside breath tests.

Garda management are coming under increasing scrutiny after it emerged that officials figures showed there had been 1,995,369 roadside tests between 2011 and 2016. However, almost one million of these never actually took place.

In a statement this evening, Ms Fitzgerald indicated that she still back Noirin O’Sullivan’s leadership of the force.

“I have made it clear to the Commissioner that the practices that allowed this misreporting to happen within An Garda Síochána over many years need to be fully addressed and the new systems that she has put in place will need to be robust, tested and verified in the time ahead,” she said.

It also emerged yesterday that almost 15,000 people will their penalty points quashed and fines repaid after another series of garda errors.

Gardaí admitted that 14,700 people were wrongly brought to court without a fixed-charge notice being issued first.

“The scale of the issues which were the substance of a press conference from An Garda Síochána yesterday is very concerning,” the Tánaiste said.

She noted that Garda first highlight the penalty point issue in June last year by writing to the Department of Justice to indicate they were conducting a nationwide audit.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney

As a result of this audit a further report was provided to the Department on March 14, 2017 and the final figures were presented by An Garda Síochána at their press conference yesterday.

Also in June 2016 the Department was informed that an audit was under way in relation to mandatory alcohol testing.

This followed concerns regarding the veracity of data held in relation to breath tests, which had been raised.

In February 2017 An Garda Síochána indicated the full results of the audit would be available by the end of Q2 2017.

“An Garda Síochána indicated in June 2016 that solutions had been put in place in both circumstances.

“With regard to the fixed charged notice issues, An Garda Síochána has outlined how the serious errors will be addressed.

“I have raised these issues with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority and have outlined my very serious concerns,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

The Chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, has confirmed that the Authority will continue to examine these matters.

“The reason that I prioritised and set up the Authority was to shine a light on and examine issues such as these,” the Tánaiste said.

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