Tuesday 28 January 2020

Policing Authority demands all reports relating to breath test scandal be handed over 'by the end of the week'

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan Photo: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The Policing Authority has criticised Garda management for not providing a “clear sense” of how problems arose with breath testing data and wrongful prosecutions “despite questioning over several months”.

In a hard-hitting statement this evening the Authority has demanded that Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan provide it with all existing reports, including audits or examinations on both matters, by the end of the week.

“The Authority is anxious that any actions arising from its consideration of these matters will take cognisance of the full breadth of the issues involved, not least the potential cultural, ethical and behavioural issues in order to reassure the public,” it said.

The body, which was set up to oversee garda management, expressed “disappointment at not being advised in a timely manner that an audit into the breath test issues was underway”.

The Authority has also asked the Garda Commissioner for full details of the examination proposed to be undertaken by an Assistant  Commissioner and internal audit and the timelines for the completion.

“The importance of supplying this additional information in a timely manner was emphasised to the Garda Commissioner,” the statement said.

Separately, the Policing Authority decided as a first step to engage expertise to assist it in conducting a quality assurance review on of the remedial actions taken in 2016 to help restore confidence in Garda data.

The Policing Authority had already planned and announced a meeting in public with the Garda Commissioner on April 27 on the topic of Roads Policing.

The current problems facing An Garda Siochana “go to the heart of policing in the State”, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said.

The Justice Minister is this evening facing two hours of questions in the Dáil about the scandals.

“They go to the heart of public confidence in our police force.  And the area of policing involved, that of roads and traffic, is one that affects every one of our citizens.

“ So many of us have been affected by tragedy on the roads, be it the death of a friend, colleague or family member.  We need to know, as citizens, that those charged with enforcing the laws designed to ensure our safety do so to the highest standards,” Ms Fitzgerald said in her opening statement.

She defended her handling of the crisis, claiming she only learned of the full scale of the falsification of breath test records and that 14,700 were wrongly brought to court for motoring offences last week.

In relation to the breath test she said there was “no indication” when Gardaí first flagged an issue in June 2016 that almost 1 million tests were fake or never happened.

“Indeed it is clear from what the Commissioner told me yesterday and from her public statements that it was not at that time known to Garda management either.

“It was in order to assess the scale of the problem that the national audit of MATs was launched,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

She said it was a matter “of great regret” that people had been incorrectly summonsed to court “with all of the consequences that follow for individuals”.

“It is absolutely critical now that these mistakes are resolved and the necessary remedial actions put in place,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

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