Commissioner says he would welcome review of Garda confidential reporting system

Martin Callinan says members of the force are obliged to report wrongdoing

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan arriving in Leinster House yesterday to attend the sitting of the Public Accounts Committee. Photograph: David Sleator

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan arriving in Leinster House yesterday to attend the sitting of the Public Accounts Committee. Photograph: David Sleator

 

The Garda Commissioner has said he would welcome a review of the internal “whistleblowing” system in the force to ensure that it had the confidence of members of the Garda Síochána.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan told the Public Accounts Committee yesterday he was not aware of an assessment taking place into the confidential reporting mechanism, first introduced in 2008, and nor had gardaí been asked for their views on it other than being made aware of its existence.

Asked by Labour TD Gerald Nash whether he would welcome a review of the system, the commissioner replied: “Absolutely,” However, he rejected any suggestion that Garda management was resistant to investigating allegations of internal wrongdoing.

Members of the force were not just entitled to report wrongdoing but obliged to do so, he stressed.

Under the system, officers could complain to a senior officer in confidence, while other oversight was provided by the Garda Inspectorate and the Garda Ombudsman Commission, he said.

Both the former officer and the current sergeant who had made claims about the penalty points cancellations had dealt with the complaints system on a “selective” basis and this was irresponsible and “grossly unfair”, the commissioner added.


Minor disciplinary action
He said only one complaint had been made over the cancellation of penalty points through the confidential reporting mechanism; this was on April 4th, 2012, and regarded four tickets cancelled by a superintendant. This led to a minor disciplinary action over “a process matter”.

He said the next he heard about the issue was when a garda was discovered in the Cavan-Monaghan district in December 2012 printing off records from the garda Pulse system and this garda had indicated he was working with another member of the force on supplying information to an elected representative.

“There is no question in my mind that they have acted irresponsibly,” the commissioner said.

He said he then directed the two officers to desist from accessing Pulse data in what appeared to be a breach of the Data Protection Act. He said they were open to make any complaint about wrongdoing over penalty points to an assistant commissioner “without prejudice” to any complaint through the confidential reporting mechanism.

The commissioner said it was “patently wrong” to use the Pulse system for “trawling” and “searching and printing” data.

“It’s very clear to me that countless and endless hours were spent on a computer” in compiling the allegations, Mr Callinan added.


Outside the force
Independent TD Shane Ross put it to the commissioner that officers should be able to go outside the force if they had no confidence in the confidential reporting mechanism. He said the commissioner was “the last person whom it [the allegation of wrongdoing] should be discussed with”.

Mr Callinan replied that “these are the systems we have in place”.

He pointed out that one of the pair had made a serious allegation of fraud – it related to 20 complaints against one member of the force – and this went to the DPP, who recommended no prosecution. A file against three other gardaí had been sent to the DPP and a decision was awaited on this.

Of the two “so-called” whistleblowers, the commissioner added: “They have chosen very carefully when to act and when not to act and that is another feature of what is going on.”

Mr Ross said the finger was being pointed at both the commissioner and assistant commissioner John O’Mahoney that they were “indulging” a system of widespread cancelling of penalty points.

Mr Callinan said it was extraordinary that just two individuals from a force of more than 13,000 had made allegations and there was not a “whisper” from any other garda that it was true. “Frankly, I think it’s quite disgusting.”


Harassment fears
In response to suggestions that officers would be bullied, harassed or intimidated because of complaining against fellow officers, he said “it will not happen on my watch”.

He pointed out both he and the assistant commissioner had been involved in investigations that resulted in colleagues being sent to jail and he recalled the wife of a colleague so prosecuted collapsing in front of him.

“So no one can point the finger at me and say I w