Tuesday 24 April 2018

Motorist driving at up to 240km/hr had their penalty points wiped

  • Some 744 cancellations were issued by one unnamed garda in 17 counties
  • 3,000 penalties were cancelled in the Midlands alone
  • One motorist driving at up to 240km/hr had their penalty points wiped from the system.
  • Almost three quarters of cancellations did not carry any sufficient rationale for the action
  • Some 442 officers were authorised to wipe fixed charge notices in the four years from 2009 to 2012
A report published by Gsoc provided evidence of widespread abuse by gardaí of the penalty points system in recent years. Stock picture
A report published by Gsoc provided evidence of widespread abuse by gardaí of the penalty points system in recent years. Stock picture

Ed Cart

A motorist driving at up to 240km/hour had penalty points wiped in an exploitation of the system which saw hundreds of gardai wipe fines and points for friends and relatives.

The Garda Ombudsman found one officer cancelled 744 fixed charge notices across 17 counties during the four years it examined.

The watchdog warned that superintendents and inspectors wiped points and fines for driving offences outside their geographical area, contrary to policy.

Some 744 cancellations were issued by one unnamed garda in 17 counties.

3,000 penalties were cancelled in the Midlands alone.

In one particular incident, one motorist driving at up to 240km/hr had their penalty points wiped from the system.

Almost three quarters of the records of notices being cancelled did not carry any sufficient rationale for the action.

Some 442 officers were authorised to wipe fixed charge notices in the four years from 2009 to 2012, the report found.

The Garda Ombudsman also found that some serving gardai used the credentials of retired senior colleagues, who would have had the authority to cancel the penalties, in order to wipe the slate clean for friends and relatives.

The report is the latest in a long line of reviews of the scandal that was exposed by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

At the height of inquiries into his allegations at the Public Accounts Committee former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan described the claims as "disgusting" while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, then transport minister, said Mr McCabe was "distinguished".

The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) said it received data relating to the issuing of 1.6 million fixed charge notices and 74,373 cancellations of these penalties and fines over the four years under examination.

The watchdog met Mr McCabe five times during its investigation.

Gsoc said it also examined previous reports on the controversy, including the internal report by Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney, the review of revenue issues by the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Garda Siochana Inspectorate. All identified systemic failures.

Gsoc said it will not be investigating individual officers for potential criminality or disciplinary issues as the bill for that has been estimated to run to more than a million euro.

"The Ombudsman Commission believes that the considerable cost to the public of continuing our investigation into a second phase - of investigating specific cancellations instances with a view to identifying possible behaviour of a criminal nature or constituting a breach of discipline - would outweigh the benefit," the watchdog said.

There is also a significant risk for overspend, Gsoc said.

The watchdog also warned its work would be hampered by a lack of supporting documentation for large portions of the cancellations.

It said there is no possibility of recovering fines or otherwise sanctioning motorists who may have had fixed charge notices cancelled improperly.

Gsoc also said there is no guarantee that gardai would be prosecuted or disciplined.

In a letter to Acting Garda Commissioner Donall O Cualain, Gsoc said: "While we are ending this investigation, our interest in road safety and public confidence in garda behaviour in this area means we will keep complaints of infringements of this nature to the forefront with the hope that such complaints will become infrequent as better internal oversight deals with the legacy of poor practices in the past."

In a press statement issue today, a spokesperson for An Gardai Siochana said that the organisation recognises that the Fixed Charge Processing System had "systematic flaws" and that some members were using it in an "inappropriate manner".

"An Garda Síochána would like to thank once again Sergeant Maurice McCabe who brought these matters to the attention of ourselves and other stakeholders. Sergeant McCabe has played a very valuable role in reform of the system.

"Following the Garda Inspectorate Report and the examination by the Garda Síochána Professional Standards Unit (which Sgt McCabe played a key role in) into the Fixed Charge Processing System, An Garda Síochána introduced a number of measures to ensure such issues could not arise again.

An Garda Síochána welcomes GSOC’s finding that the "procedures for dealing with fixed charge notice cancellations have dramatically changed in recent years.”

Press Association

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