Callinan pledges penalty points inquiry
There is “no question” of what has been described as a “culture of non-enforcement of penalties” being tolerated by An Garda Síochána, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has said.
Mr Callinan issued a statement today in the wake of allegations of unwarranted removal of tens of thousands of penalty points around the country by gardaí.
The commissioner said effective enforcement by members of the force, along with the efforts of others, had contributed to a dramatic decline in the number of road deaths and injuries.
“This is evidenced by the fact that year in year out hundreds of thousands of penalties are imposed and enforced for breaches of road traffic legislation.”
Mr Callinan has already appointed Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney to examine the allegations made about the removal of penalty points. He said that for “obvious reasons” there were limits to what he could say publicly about the matter until that examination was complete.
“It would be unfortunate if people were to take advantage of that situation to repeat publicly allegations as if they were established facts.”
He said it was important to emphasise that the allegations generally appeared to be based solely on an examination of records in the Garda’s Pulse system.
“In other words, allegations of impropriety are made without it being clear how the person making them would have complete knowledge as to what led to decisions being taken in particular cases or being in a position to assess properly whether the decisions made were appropriate,” Mr Callinan said.
“In those circumstances, it is very unfair both to members of the force, and to the people who were the subject of the notices, to assert wrongdoing in the absence of a determination of the full facts. This danger has been highlighted during the course of the examination which is taking place.”
Mr Callinan said it was important that the examination be allowed to proceed unhindered and “that there should be no rush to judgement in advance of a full determination of the facts”.
Mr Callinan said the public could be assured that the investigation into the allegations “will be comprehensive and rigorous, whatever the circumstances behind them”.
“If issues emerge as to how some individual cases were dealt with, these will be pursued fully. Equally, if any lessons can be learned from the examination when it is complete, these will be taken on board.”
The commissioner said that under his leadership he was “determined that the commitment of An Garda Síochána to the effective enforcement of road traffic legislation will be absolute”.
Minster for Transport Leo Varadkar yesterday said he was very concerned about the allegations.
He said the allegations would be investigated and reports had been issued to the Garda Commissioner, Department of Justice and to the Garda Ombudsman Commissioner.
“It’s important that the public have confidence in the penalty point system. We can’t be in a position whereby people can get out of penalty points because they know someone,” he said.
The Minister said there were times where penalty points could legitimately be cancelled, but he said that system was abused in some parts of the country.
An interim report on the practice of gardaí terminating points, in many cases for no stated reason, was sent from Garda headquarters to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter last week.
Documents seen by The Irish Times show the details of the persons whose points were terminated, the reasons sometimes given for the termination, and in many cases Garda personnel numbers that appear to identify those who terminated the points.
Among those who have had their points terminated are two members of the judiciary. The matter came to light when a garda and a sergeant approached the Department of Transport, the Department of Justice and the Road Safety Authority acting as whistleblowers.
Penalty points were introduced in 2002 and now cover a total of 48 offences.