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Monday 14 October 2019

Penalty points whistleblower considers official complaint to garda watchdog

Brian Hutton

One of the whistleblowers behind the penalty points controversy is considering asking the Garda ombudsman to launch an independent investigation into his allegations.

John Wilson, who retired from the force just weeks ago, said he has only become aware in recent days that he could make an official complaint to the force's official watchdog.

The Garda Ombudsman can not probe allegations by serving officers - as they are considered internal matters - but has confirmed it would have to consider any complaint from someone who has stood down.

Relations between the force and the Ombudsman have already plunged to an all-time low after its inquiry into alleged Garda collusion with drug trafficker and alleged informant Kieran Boylan.

Mr Wilson has branded a whitewash the internal Garda investigation into allegations by him and another anonymous whistleblower of widespread wrongdoing over wiping of fixed penalty notices for motoring offences.

"I very, very strongly am considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman," he told the Press Association.

"I'm seeking legal advice in relation to the matter."

He added: "We are both standing over the allegations that we have made."

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has accepted it is still possible for the force's watchdog to launch its own investigation.

It has also emerged prosecutors are examining fraud allegations against a serving Garda officer at the centre of a separate internal inquiry into improper quashing of fixed penalties.

Mr Wilson said he went directly to management over his concerns about a superintendent.

Mr Callinan has confirmed that a probe was launched into this case, and a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

It is understood the unnamed officer is continuing to work on duty pending the outcome of the State prosecutor's decision on the findings.

The officer was investigated for suspected defrauding the State of money, by writing off penalty notices that were issued for motoring offences.

Under cross-examination by a powerful parliamentary watchdog today, Mr Callinan said no files were sent to the DPP over the wider investigation into the wiping of penalty points by officers because there was no suspected criminality.

Three senior Garda officers - a superintendent and two inspectors - are facing possible disciplinary action over their involvement in the controversy.

Mr Callinan defended the credibility of the wider internal inquiry, which was sparked when Mr Wilson and his anonymous colleague went public with their claims.

The commissioner dismissed suggestions that the force should not be investigating itself over alleged wrongdoing by praising his assistant commissioner John O'Mahony for his honesty and integrity.

The investigation was "first class" and had laid bare all the facts over the controversy "warts and all", he told TDs and senators on the Oireachtas public accounts committee.

But Independent TD Shane Ross said there were question marks over the six-month long probe, which could not be seen as credible because it was not carried out by outsiders.

"You are commissioner. It's in your interest that he (Mr O'Mahony) produces a report that exonerates and is favourable to the Gardai," he said.

Mr Ross compared the internal report giving the force a "clean bill of health" with a recent independent Garda Ombudsman investigation over alleged collusion with drugs trafficker Boylan which was heavily critical of the force.

"One was independent, one was not," he said.

Asked why the Garda Ombudsman was not called in over the penalty points claims, Mr Callinan said: "These are matters beyond my control."

Mr Ross said the Garda was at war with the Ombudsman over its findings, and accused the force of being fairly unaccountable and difficult when it came to giving out information.

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