Sunday 17 November 2019

Penalty points: Garda watchdog finds “inconsistent and widespread breaches” of the system

Fionnan Sheahan

A Garda watchdog has found “inconsistent and widespread breaches” of the penalty points system by gardai.

Garda Inspectorate report on the scrapping of penalty points has concluded there was “no meaningful evidence  of  consistent quality management supervision, no training and no clear  policy  guidelines  on  its  implementation”.

The report finds there was “no auditing” of  the cancellation  process of fixed charge notices either  at  Garda  Headquarters, Regional, Divisional and District level.

The Garda Inspectorate expressed concern at the “inconsistent application, interpretation   and subjectivity of the cancellation of fixed charge notices, which must be addressed.”

The report says the cancellation rates across 110 garda districts show a “significant proportion of cases were cancelled in circumstances that do not satisfy the policy”.

The  report was presented to Justice Minister Alan Shatter last month by Chief  Inspector Robert Olson and was discussed by the Government today.

The Inspectorate has recommended a “holistic approach  to overhaul the entire Fixed Charge Processing System”.

The main recommendation is the centralisation of the cancelling authority at the Fixed Charge Processing Office, Thurles.

Mr Olsen said: “Correcting the serious deficiencies in the cancellation  process through full implementation of the recommendations in this  report will bring the FCPS in line with international best practice.”

The key recommendations from the report include:

* A Criminal Justice Working Group to oversee the implementation of the recommendations made in the report;

* The cancellation authority for fixed charge notices to be centralized in the Fixed Charge Processing Office, Thurles;

* A single Garda Síochána Unit to undertake regular audits of the full operation of the FCPS;

* The Criminal Justice Working Group to coordinate the development of a bar coded pre-summons notepad for recording and serving a notice of a fixed charge offence;

* Utilisation of the Garda Information Services Centre (GISC) for entry of all intercept pre-summonses onto the FCPS;

* A  review  of the summons service process be undertaken to ascertain the reasons for the significant level of unserved summonses;

* Cancellation of a fixed charge notice only to be considered where the petition  is  accompanied  by factual third party evidence supporting the  reason for cancellation. Where a petition is not accompanied by factual third party evidence the petition is to be denied;

* All  offenders  to  be  notified  of the Garda Síochána cancellation petition policy regarding the Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS). 

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