Witness says number of falsified breathalyser tests could be much higher

Civilian Garda employee said she witnessed garda test himself to falsify numbers

A report revealed that gardaí had exaggerated the number of breathalyser tests by 1.45 million. Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

A report revealed that gardaí had exaggerated the number of breathalyser tests by 1.45 million. Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

 

A civilian Garda employee who claimed she witnessed a garda using a breathalyser machine on himself to falsify test figures has said she believes the numbers of exaggerated tests could be much higher than reported.

Earlier this month, An Garda Síochána published the results of an internal investigation by Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan into alleged reports of gardaí grossly exaggerating the number of roadside breathalyser tests it had carried out. The final report stated gardaí had exaggerated the number by 1.45 million.

In February The Irish Times reported a large discrepancy between the number of tests carried out and the numbers being entered on the Garda’s Pulse system. It also described a complaint from a civilian witness who said she saw a garda blowing into a breath-test device in a Garda station.

False tests

On Sunday, she told RTÉ’s This Week programme she believes the true amount of false tests could be much higher than reported as the internal Garda report would not have detected incidents like the one she claimed to have seen.

She said she first became aware of the issue when she came into work and saw the garda sitting at a desk. “I noticed the garda had an alcometer in his hand and was blowing full force into the alcometer,” she said. “I also noticed that he had a bundle of tubes in the other hand and a blank form in front of him.

“And I straight away questioned him as to what he was doing. His reply was ‘Oh, I’m just making up some numbers’. He looked embarrassed and I thought I caught him on the hop.”

She said she told the garda that what he was doing was “morally and ethically wrong” and she alerted management. She declined to make a formal complaint but later notified the Road Safety Authority of what she had seen. She said such incidents would not have been picked up by the internal investigation as it only examined the discrepancy between the numbers on the testing devices and the numbers on Pulse.

“Everything looks perfect on paper. If you breathalyse yourself using the alcometer, the alcometer will tally perfectly with the return, meaning that it’s un-investigatable.”

In order to avoid a repeat of the scandal, all new testing devices will have GPS features so it can be verified testing took place at checkpoints.

In a statement, An Garda Síochána said it is determined to ensure all the issues raised in relation to breath tests “are thoroughly addressed so they can’t happen again”.

The statement urged anyone with information to contact Mr O’Sullivan and the Policing Authority. “During Assistant Commissioner O’Sullivan’s examination all Garda personnel – members of and civilians – were invited to make individual submissions or bring forward any relevant information.”