Garda investigated over penalty points fraud

Investigation has been completed and a file sent to the DPP, who is considering criminal charges

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan: refuted any suggestion of wrongdoing on his part when he had two penalty points terminated from his licence. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan: refuted any suggestion of wrongdoing on his part when he had two penalty points terminated from his licence. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Fri, May 17, 2013, 01:00

A serving member of An Garda Síochána has been the subject of a criminal investigation for his alleged role in terminating penalty points from motorists’ licences without apparent good reason.

The garda was investigated for fraud after it was alleged his actions in terminating points had defrauded the State of revenue that may have arisen from the cases. The inquiry was begun last June when specific information about a named individual was supplied to Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park. The investigation has been completed and a file sent to the DPP, who is considering criminal charges.

Details of the case emerged yesterday, just 24 hours after the publication of the results of a major investigation into thousands of penalty points being terminated.

That investigation found no evidence of corruption or any evidence that would form the basis of a criminal investigation, though a superintendent and two inspectors are being investigated internally after terminating points in 661 cases.


Separate inquiry
The information that led to the separate criminal inquiry came from one of two whistleblowers whose information sparked the much larger probe. The specific information lodged about the named  garda was received before Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney was asked last November to carry out the wider investigation into alleged widespread Garda corruption.

News there was a criminal probe into the fraud allegations emerged when Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan appeared before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

He did not outline the precise details of the case, though sources who spoke to The Irish Times confirmed the details.

Speaking to the media after yesterday’s committee meeting, Mr Callinan refuted any suggestion of wrongdoing on his part when he had two penalty points terminated from his licence.

He was detected driving at 83km/h in a 60km/h zone in 2007. He said yesterday he was on official business, going to a meeting in his own car and under Garda rules was entitled not to incur points: “It’s a perfectly legal thing to do; it was an urgent sensitive issue I was dealing with.”

He said the points had been terminated within the rules and with a full audit trail, adding that nobody had contradicted his version of events. Responding to questions at the committee from Shane Ross TD (Ind) and Mary Lou McDonald TD (SF), Mr Callinan defended the wider probe against suggestions its findings lacked credibility because it involved “gardaí investigating gardaí”.


Informers’ budget
He said Mr O’Mahoney was an officer of the highest standing who would not partake in any whitewash. He confirmed some Garda informers were paid out of the State’s €1 million annual “secret service” budget but insisted his force had co-operated fully with a recent Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission probe into the use of an informer.

The committee also heard that random checks suggested some 5 per cent of vehicles on the road were not taxed in 2010 and 2011, costing the State €50 million in unpaid vehicle tax.