Garda inspector quashed up to 1,000 traffic offence fines, dossier reveals

Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 00:00

A Garda inspector quashed up to 1,000 fixed-charge notices for traffic offences in the past four years, four Independent TDs claimed yesterday.

The offences took place in counties within and outside the inspector’s area of responsibility. And a superintendent who quashed “several hundred” offences entered “genuine reason” into the Garda Pulse computer system as the explanation for their quashing.

Independent TDs Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Joan Collins and Luke “Ming” Flanagan said they had drawn the data from a dossier provided by two Garda whistleblowers. They have called for a public inquiry into the matter.

The TDs had intended making the full dossier available to the media for examination but, following a warning from the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner yesterday morning, decided not to do so.

More than 66,000 cases of traffic offence tickets being quashed were included in the dossier. Almost 37,000 involved speeding tickets, while 3,270 were for using mobile phones, 1,200 related to dangerous driving, almost 1,900 related to not wearing a seat belt and more than 940 were for breaking a red light. A further 22,000 related to tax and insurance offences.

Some 50,000 drivers had their tickets quashed, the dossier claimed, at a cost of €4 million in lost revenue and the loss of 100,000 penalty points. And gardaí had tickets terminated for themselves, their colleagues, family and friends.

Under section 7 of the Road Traffic Act 2004, a driver of a fire brigade vehicle, an ambulance or a Garda vehicle in performance of duty is exempt from speeding fines. If a fine is issued it may be cancelled. Civilian drivers may be exempted or have a penalty quashed by gardaí only if they are driving “under the direction of a garda”. Regulations from Garda headquarters also stipulate all cancellations must be made by the district officer in which the incident occurred.

The TDs gave 20 samples from the dossier with names, locations and dates removed.

They included cases involving one superintendent who had terminated two speeding tickets for the wives of two members of staff, for an ex-Garda superintendent and for individuals who had also had previous tickets quashed. This superintendent’s wife also had her speeding ticket terminated by a Garda inspector and the superintendent had a speeding ticket quashed by a different superintendent on the grounds he was “on official duty”.

Reasons for cancellation of fixed-charge notices included “confusion over signage”, “medication for elderly parents” and “received call that his house had been burgled”.

Ms Daly also told media the two Garda whistleblowers were approached last Friday and had a letter from Garda Commissioner Martin Callanan read out to them by senior officers. It told them to stop accessing Pulse and stop talking to third parties. This was an attempt at “gagging”, she said.

A Garda spokesman said the commissioner “discusses matters on a daily basis with members of the force”. These were internal matters and would not be discussed in public, he said. He also highlighted a previous statement issued by the commissioner in which he said an investigation into the allegations, led by Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney, would be “comprehensive and rigorous”.

Terminated tickets by the numbers:

37,000

involved speeding

22,000

related to tax and insurance offences

3,270

were for using mobile phones

1,200

related to dangerous driving

1,900

were for not wearing seat belts