Action mooted against senior gardaí who ignored breath-test alert

‘Half of chief superintendents’ did not reply to Garda HQ breathalyser request

Acting commissioner: Dónall Ó Cualáin at the Policing Authority in September; it wants him to appear again, to outline his response to chief superintendents who ignored breathalyser requests. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Acting commissioner: Dónall Ó Cualáin at the Policing Authority in September; it wants him to appear again, to outline his response to chief superintendents who ignored breathalyser requests. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Action may be taken against chief superintendents who failed to reply when Garda headquarters asked them to look into breathalyser data in their divisions. About half did not respond, and some of those who did reply gave inadequate responses, according to the Policing Authority. “That’s serious from a governance point of view in an organisation that professes itself as a command-and-control organisation,” its chairwoman, Josephine Feehily, said on Wednesday.

The authority has said that although disciplinary action is for the acting Garda commissioner, Dónall Ó Cualáin, to decide on, it wants him to appear before it this month to outline his plans. Ms Feehily also encouraged Mr Ó Cualáin to pursue disciplinary or criminal proceedings against any garda where there was prima-facie evidence of wrongdoing.

Policing Authority “dismayed”

It also emerged on Wednesday that some drink-driving checkpoints had been fabricated and that proceedings have already begun against the gardaí involved. At the launch of an independent Policing Authority report on the inflation of breath-test data and the wrongful conviction of almost 15,000 motorists, Ms Feehily said the authority was dismayed. She added that “inadequate supervision and poor performance management” across the Garda were to blame and that training and resources could not “explain away” what had gone wrong. “Unfortunately, the authority cannot offer an assurance to the community that these problems could not recur,” Ms Feehily said.

“No culture of speaking up”

She did not accept that the inadequate supervision was caused by budget cuts. Although garda numbers had fallen in the recession, the ratio of sergeants to rank-and-file gardaí remained constant at about one to six, in line with the norm internationally.

Ms Feehily also pointed out that the breath-test data was inflated, and the motorists wrongly convicted, before the recession. The Garda had “an expectation nobody would ever question the figures” and therefore no concern about the implications of falsifying breathalyser data. It also had “no culture of speaking up”, valuing loyalty more highly – although that was historical and prevalent in many police forces.

Ms Feehily added that the Garda needed a “meaningful performance-management system”, involving one-to-one assessments of individual gardaí where their performance was reviewed and challenged.