Monday 20 November 2017

Up to 1,000 gardai face investigation over breath tests

Justice Minister calls for 'zero tolerance' for offending officers

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Maeve Sheehan and Philip Ryan

Up to 1,000 gardai could face investigation over the fake breathalyser test scandal, the Sunday Independent has learned.

The shock development, the latest scandal to rock the force, comes as Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan insisted he wants "zero tolerance" shown to guards found to have knowingly falsified tests. Mr Flanagan said a superintendent will be appointed to every district to oversee the fall-out from the internal Garda reports into the breathalyser test controversy.

Read more: Explainer: The key findings in the two reports into the garda breath test and penalty point controversies

It has also emerged Mr Flanagan hauled senior managers into his office last week and dressed them down over the damning report into Garda malpractice.

"This is a very dark chapter in the long and distinguished history of An Garda Siochana," Mr Flanagan said.

"The practices contained in the reports are wholly unacceptable. I have conveyed my annoyance to the top ranks of An Garda Siochana," he said.

"As Minister for Justice, these acts are unacceptable and it is essential not only that these practices never reoccur but that trust and confidence in An Garda Siochana is fully restored."

Asked if gardai should be dismissed over the scandal, the minister said: "I am eager to ensure that there is zero tolerance for unacceptable practices in An Garda Siochana. I am not ruling in or out any measure."

Garda managers have sent instructions to regional officers to identify gardai in their areas who input false figures and to establish whether they have a disciplinary case to answer.

Read more: 'If gardaí had really carried out tests, my little boy might be alive'

According to Garda sources, inflated breath test data for each region was dispatched last week to the relevant chief superintendents who are expected to appoint teams to trace the gardai responsible for inputting the data, and assess whether they should face disciplinary action.

Regional Garda chiefs must report their findings to Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael Finn. With the numbers of gardai implicated expected to run to hundreds, if not more, Garda management sources said the disciplinary investigations will cause "havoc" within the force.

One source said: "You could be talking hundreds, you could be talking thousands. If we go down the road of investigating which gardai did what, we will end up in a bigger mess. There will be battles with the Garda organisations.

In an interview in today's Sunday Independent, Mr Flanagan said he still has confidence in embattled Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan but would not say if he believed she would be in her position next year - despite being asked four times.

Read more: Fake breath test reports unacceptable - Garda Commissioner

The minster would also not say he if was disappointed with Ms O'Sullivan's decision to apply for a job with European policing agency Europol while the Government had thrown its full weight behind the under-fire Garda chief.

The minister said he has a "duty to act" on the forthcoming recommendations on the breathalyser scandal from the Policing Authority, even if that means making changes to senior management in the force.

"We experienced a very bleak and dark chapter in the history of An Garda Siochana. My job is to ensure we move from that to a better place. That will involve pain, it will involve patience and it will involve reform of an unprecedented degree," he said.

Sunday Independent

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