Cabinet agrees to overhaul penalty points regime

Garda Inspectorate finds ‘consistent and widespread breaches of policy’

Alan Shatter declined to apologise to the Garda whistleblowers whose claims triggered the investigation. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Alan Shatter declined to apologise to the Garda whistleblowers whose claims triggered the investigation. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 01:00

The Cabinet has accepted all 37 recommendations made by the Garda Inspectorate in a damning indictment of the way the penalty points system has been operated.

Following publication of the inspectorate’s report yesterday, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said that an action plan, agreed with the Garda Commissioner, for the implementation of the recommendations had been drawn up and agreed by the Government.

A new working group recommended in the report is to hold its first meeting today.

The report into the operation of the penalty points system found “consistent and widespread breaches of policy” and a serious waste of money and resources.

In May last year, Mr Shatter asked the inspectorate to look into allegations of corruption and favouritism in the administration of the Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS).

This followed claims by Garda whistleblowers and reports on the system from the Comptroller and Auditor General, Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney and the Garda Professional Standards Unit.


‘Comprehensive approach’
Mr Shatter welcomed the comprehensive approach taken by the inspectorate in identifying deficiencies in the system. However, he declined to apologise to the Garda whistleblowers whose claims triggered the investigation.

Mr Shatter said that while the whistleblowers Sgt Maurice McCabe and John Wilson “got a number of things correct” some of their claims had not been established.

He said there were serious issues around Garda members liberally accessing confidential information on the Pulse computer system and distributing it to the public.

The report, presented to the Minister by Chief Inspector Robert K Olson, involved a detailed examination of the penalty points system, including the practice of cancellation of fixed charge notices.

It found consistent and widespread breaches of policy by those charged with administering it and found no meaningful evidence of consistent quality management supervision, no training and no clear policy guidelines.

The three-member inspectorate is an independent statutory body established in 2006 following legislation the previous year and is charged with ensuring Garda resources are used efficiently. It undertakes inspections as requested by the Minister for Justice and advises on best policing practices.


Commissioner
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan last night welcomed the report and said some of the issues it pointed up were already being dealt with in response to earlier reports.

He also addressed his use of the term “disgusting” at a recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.

“I want to clarify that my use of that term was not in reference to the character of either Sgt McCabe or former garda Wilson, but the manner in which personal and sensitive data was inappropriately appearing in the public domain without regard to due process and fair procedures,” he said.

Independent deputy Mick Wallace, who initially raised the penalty points issue, maintained Mr Shatter and Mr Callinan should both resign on foot of the report.