Gardai in hot pursuit of criminals given penalty points
'Dozens' of officers nationwide have had fixed-charge notices sent to them
On-the-spot fines and penalty points are being automatically applied to garda drivers who break the speed limit while in pursuit of the country's criminals.
Sources have revealed that "dozens" of officers nationwide have had fixed-charge notices sent to them because they have been detected speeding while driving their official patrol cars.
In virtually all these cases, the targeted officers have been driving above the speed limit because they had been following vehicles that are often much faster and more powerful than their cars, including vehicles linked to burglaries and crime gangs.
In some cases, the penalty notices have been issued against garda drivers who have been driving less than 10kph over the speed limit.
Previously when garda drivers were detected driving over the speed limit, the local superintendent had the power to quash on the-spot-fines once that senior officer was satisfied that the garda was driving over the speed limit for a legitimate reason.
But this policy was changed after a report was published by the Garda Inspectorate last March following the penalty point scandal.
In June, acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan then transferred the power to a central office in Thurles, Co Tipperary - the fixed Charge Processing Office - who are now the only body that decides if points and fines will be cancelled.
Gardai who are detected speeding - even during the pursuit of suspects - have to apply to this office.
Ultimately, there have been no accounts of any garda who has received fixed penalty notices for speeding in the course of their work not being able to successfully appeal the decision.
But the issue is causing deep frustration.
A source told the Herald: "Of course this is having an effect - fines are being issued to gardai who are going about their normal duties often while they attempt to apprehend dangerous criminals.
"While eventually it all gets wiped, officers are wasting time completing paperwork for the office in Thurles.
"The issue of points being applied to individual driving licences also has an effect on the garda driver's domestic insurance policy even if the points are wiped at a later date.
"The big fear is that all of this will lead officers to be reluctant to follow people at speed and there are occasions when this is absolutely necessary.
"There is a real feeling of apprehension and uncertainty and it is not in the interests of public safety for gardai to feel that they should not be able to follow a vehicle."