Motorist driving at up to 240km/h had penalty points cancelled

Impossible to determine how many of 76,000 cancellations were dishonest

Records kept by gardaí as they cancelled penalty points were so poor and unreliable it would be impossible to discipline or prosecute them, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) has found.

And for that reason, and because of the costs involved, Gsoc has decided to end its four-year inquiry.

It means no Garda members will be disciplined or prosecuted.

“Due to the passage of time, there is very little likelihood of securing criminal or disciplinary proceedings against garda members,” Gsoc said in a statement after the publication of a report of its investigation into qushing of penalty points.


“And in many cases, the Garda Síochána has already made disciplinary decisions that would negate any further action by Gsoc.”

It added the lowest quote it had received for follow-up investigations against individual gardaí was €1 million, though that could increase by a large amount.

Gsoc said the Garda’s systems had been overhauled and the scope for abuses reduced because only three Garda members now had the power to cancel points.

And if any serving Garda members wanted points on their licences cancelled, they must now apply to the DPP.

However, Gsoc said it was doubtful whether those changes would ever have come about but for whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe exposing the abuses.

It said its staff met Sgt McCabe five times and got an insight into the nature of his information.

“Sgt McCabe went into specific detail relating to a number of cancellations where he believed wrongdoing had occurred, providing details, names of Garda members involved and the situation set out in each cancellation,” Gsoc said.

“Additionally, he mentioned what he classed as ‘habitual terminators’ and where commercial vehicles or Garda members or their friends or family members had FCNs [fixed charge notices] cancelled.”

One Garda fined

Overall, penalty points were cancelled 76,600 times between 2009 and 2012 and 442 Garda members had the power to terminate the points.

However, Gsoc has been unable to determine how many fixed charge notices were cancelled without good reason. And it was unable to determine how many gardaí acted improperly.

In one case, a Dublin-based member terminated points 744 points incurred across 17 counties. He was disciplined with a fine of €3,000.

Rates at which points were cancelled across the State were almost uniform; at three or four per cent of all cases.

Only one county was outside that rate; Westmeath, with five per cent of cases cancelled.

Nationally, some 4.6 per cent of penalty points incurred were cancelled.

Sick dog

Gsoc issued its report marking the conclusion of its inquiries into the penalty points debacle. It contained some embarrassing findings for the Garda. These included:

  • A Garda member had points cancelled "on compassionate grounds associated with animal welfare". It was later found he was bringing his sick dog to the vet.
  • One driver travelling at between 221km and 240km per hour had his speeding points terminated.
  • A journalist driving at 173km in a 120km zone was cautioned.
  • When the same journalist was detected driving at 152km per hour in a 120km zone the points were cancelled on the grounds they had become distracted by news of a relative's medical emergency.
  • Wife of a senior Garda had points cancelled on grounds she was using dictaphone rather than talking into a phone.
  • In 72 per cent of all cancellations the reason inserted onto the computer system was stated as "cancellation".
  • When Garda members had speeding points cancelled, no checks were carried out to verify they were on duty and speeding because of a work-related task.
  • Members of national units, including those targeting organised crime, were cancelling points even though road traffic enforcement formed no part of their duties.
  • Some Garda members cancelled points so quickly after an offence the points were terminated before the offenders' received the official notices in the mail.
  • In those cases, one garda cancelled notices 48 times in three months. Another made 29 cancellations in two months.
  • The Pulse log-ins of retired senior garda officers were still active and being used by still serving members to cancel points. In some cases the log-ins were for officers retired more than a decade.

Written reminder

Aside from the one member fined €3,000, the only other sanction taken involved 50 members of up to the rank of superintendent being written to and reminded to stay within the rules in future.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan noted Gsoc's view that the record keeping was so poor, and the costs involved so high, that investigations into individual Garda members will not take place.

He said the acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin had set out the same reasons in explaining why individual gardaí would not be pursued for fabricating breath test data.

“Clearly bearing in mind Gsoc’s statutory independence, the decision on whether the investigation should be discontinued is one that only Gsoc can make,” Mr Flanagan said of the ending of the inquiry into penalty points being cancelled.

“A more robust system of supervision and continuous improvement would better serve to instil public confidence, as the report indicates.”

He believed significant reforms for the processing and oversight of the cancellation of points was now in place, with a judge also carrying out reviews and audits of points cancelled.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

David Labanyi

David Labanyi

David Labanyi is the Head of Audience with The Irish Times