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Retired garda speaks out on use of discretion

A RETIRED senior garda, who was formerly in charge of the force's traffic policy and later garda intelligence, has called for an overhaul of the exercise of discretion by gardai.

Chief Superintendent John O'Brien warns the current political debate is disturbing and there is a danger public confidence in the garda enforcement policy would be shaken by it.

He said this should not be permitted to happen, as much had been achieved in saving lives on the roads.

In a letter to the Irish Independent, he said the authorities should dispense with the fig-leaf of discretion in the context of the penalty points debate.

He said there had been overwhelming success in improving road safety. But he said this was based on a single premise – motorists would alter their driving behaviour only when sanctions were immediate, relevant and fair.

He pointed out that he had carried out an examination of the system for the Garda Ombudsman in 2008 and many of the currrent issues, including discretion, were highlighted in that report.


However, they had remained shelved.

The idea that 13,000 gardai could somehow operate individual discretion was not tenable, he added.

"Ultimately, garda officers must know that policing is something they do for people, not to people - it is a noble service," he added.

see letters

Irish Independent