Acting Garda commissioner to appear before justice committee

Ó Cualáin to say Garda management and rank-and-file members responsible for breath-test figures

Acting Garda commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin will  tell a committee that more than 3,800 motorists wrongly convicted of motoring offences are to have their cases heard this December. Photograph: Collins

Acting Garda commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin will tell a committee that more than 3,800 motorists wrongly convicted of motoring offences are to have their cases heard this December. Photograph: Collins

 

Both Garda management and rank-and-file members must accept responsibility for the falsification of breath-test figures, the acting Garda commissioner will tell an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday.

Dónall Ó Cualáin is to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice to discuss two Garda internal reports on the wrongful conviction of more than 14,000 motorists and the exaggeration of breath-test data.

Mr Ó Cualáin will apologise for the policy and administrative failures which allowed gardaí to wrongly claim 1.45 million breath tests were done over seven years when they were not.

The commissioner will outline the unacceptable failures in systems, processes, internal oversight, supervision and management.

In his opening statement to the Oireachtas committee Mr Ó Cualáin will say: “All of us in An Garda Síochána must now take responsibility to change our systems, practices, behaviours and culture so these issues cannot happen again and confidence is rebuilt. This is a collective issue. This can only be fixed from the top down and the bottom up.”

The publication of the internal Garda report into the breath-test controversy led to criticism from the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents rank-and-file gardaí. It alleged management was to blame for the exaggeration of figures. The union said members were told to elevate figures by management.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan have urged the GRA to publish any information it has to support that claim.

The commissioner’s comments appear to be an attempt to calm the dispute between the GRA and management.

Motoring offences

Mr Ó Cualáin will also tell the committee that more than 3,800 motorists wrongly convicted of motoring offences are to have their cases heard this December.

He will say 11,924 have been contacted by An Garda Síochána to notify them their case may be appealed. Some 67 of those were bought before the Dublin Circuit Court and were successfully appealed. Their convictions were overturned and their fines repaid. A further 3,800 are scheduled for December.

Mr Ó Cualáin does not detail how much it has cost to hear the appeals or return the money.

The committee is holding a series of meetings on the future of policing in Ireland in response to the recent Garda controversies.

Mr Ó Cualáin, who will act as Garda commissioner until a replacement is found for Noirín O’Sullivan who recently retired, will insist reform will proceed under his tenure.

Need to change

“We fully recognise that we need to change. We need to change our culture. We need to provide our people with better training, resources and systems. We need to provide a better police service to the public,” he will say.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has confirmed the acting commissioner will receive a salary of €180,613 for his term in office, effectively the current salary for a Garda commissioner.