Points inquiry is ‘grossly unfair’, says Callinan
Commissioner defends force’s handling of the penalty points controversy
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has said the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee investigation into the wiping of penalty points has the potential to undermine his authority and the ability of the force to carry out its policing and security roles.
Mr Callinan told the Committee its investigation into the use of Garda discretion in erasing penalty points raised “fundamental issues” relating to the control and direction of the Garda.
Responding to the committee chairman John McGuinness who told him the committee intended to hear evidence form two Garda whistle-blowers, Mr Callinan said the investigation was “grossly unfair” to him as the officer responsible for discipline and control.
He warned he would reserve his position and seek legal advice in relation to the committee’s proposed action.
Mr Callinan warned of the dangers of breaches of the Data Protection Act, but said “in general terms” it was not appropriate for a member of An Garda “to use this committee” to make unsubstantiated allegations “or provide sensitive personal data to a third party committee such as this”.
He said he had not decided on disciplinary procedures against the whistle blowers but “will have to seriously consider my position and their position”.
While he did not want to interfere with the committee’s work, he could not tolerate a situation where any of its 13,000 members could use the committee to make very serious allegations of wrong doing against one another, he said.
Mr Callinan told committee chairman John McGuinness: “I simply and we as an organisation simply couldn’t function either in terms of our policing or or security remit if I wasn’t in a position, and my officers in a position , to exercise that type of control.”
Mr Callinan who has previously written to the committee to say it had no right to files given to it by whistle blowers said he would “protect the force”.
That was he said not to suggest that he was “circling the wagons” but he believed a member of the force using the committee to make allegations against other members of the force was “fundamentally wrong”.
During the hearing he defended the force’s handling of the penalty points controversy, saying it had responded with “swift action” to address public concerns about the use of Garda discretion to cancel motoring fines and penalty points.
While he acknowledged more than 10,000 fixed charge notices are terminated every year, Mr Callinan said the level equated to just two cancellations per week per Garda district, or 2.6 per cent of about 1.46 million notices issued.
Answering questions on the operation of the fixed charge penalty points system at the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee this morning, Mr Mr Callinan said while there were weaknesses in the system, it was not “a weak system”.