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Report by Inspectorate in 2014 was largely ignored


Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Photo: Mark Condren

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Photo: Mark Condren

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Photo: Mark Condren

Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan was handed a clear - and damning - report on the failings of the traffic penalty system in February 2014 by the independent investigative and advisory body, the Garda Inspectorate.

The report, Fixed Charge Processing System, a 21st Century Strategy, was 72 pages and made detailed recommendations on how to fix 16 areas where the Garda system was broken. It was, pretty much, ignored.

Yesterday, the Commissioner's response to the latest scandal over corrupt practices pertaining to traffic policing was to suggest it all be handed back to the Garda Inspectorate to look at for a second time.

To an extent, the Commissioner is merely copying the Government's approach to scandals and major problems pertaining to the management of the country - by kicking it down the road to a tribunal of inquiry by lawyers.

But her suggestion yesterday that this is a legacy issue going back 10 years is not correct. The mandatory alcohol test system was introduced in 2011 when, as deputy commissioner in charge of "operations", she was responsible for traffic policing. However, the Garda Inspectorate, which has only two external senior police officers, is already doing very important work in relation to other big problems in the Garda. No response was available from it yesterday.

Apart from the technical detail of how to run a "fixed-penalty" system properly, the Inspectorate noted the private views of senior garda staff who told them "but for the public scrutiny, the extent of the deficiencies within the fixed-charge processing system would not have been detected". In other words, it was covered up.

Commissioner O'Sullivan said she would like the Inspectorate to "examine the processes and methodology utilised to identify the nature and extent of the problems" and "review the control measures put in place designed to address the issues".

This is what the Inspectorate's 2014 report stated in its summary: "With few exceptions, the Inspectorate found no meaningful evidence of consistent quality management supervision (of the cancellation process) either at Garda Headquarters, Regional, Divisional, District or any level that would have detected and rectified these problems."

According to gardai, the enormous number of fake breath tests - sources have said it is closer to two million than under one million - was a countrywide problem.

The issue of the massive inflation of breath testing was highlighted in the Sunday Independent in July 2015. Asked whether the figures were inflated, Garda management issued a typically evasive reply - and did nothing.

The almost 15,000 wrongful traffic summonses and the fake breath test data is, on any reading of the Inspectorate's other reports, the least of the serious issues surrounding severe corruption of policing. The Inspectorate also found that gardai have been corporately covering up and lying about serious crime, including rape. This has yet to be addressed.

Sunday Independent