Whistleblower information ‘was credible’

Head of the Garda Inspectorate stops short of saying report’s findings were a vindication of his actions

Deputy Chief Inspector, Robert Olson (centre), Chief Inspector and Mark Toland, Deputy Chief Inspector Garda Inspectorate at tonight’s press conference. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Deputy Chief Inspector, Robert Olson (centre), Chief Inspector and Mark Toland, Deputy Chief Inspector Garda Inspectorate at tonight’s press conference. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The head of the Garda Inspectorate said that information supplied by the whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe during the preparation of its report on penalty points was “credible” but stopped short of saying the findings were a vindication of his actions.

Chief inspector Robert K Olson, unveiling the report Fixed Charged Processing System – A 21st Century Strategy today, said they uncovered a “pretty ominous” waste of human resources and a loss of “legitimate revenue” to the State.

The Inspectorate was asked to carry out its review of the penalty points system last July and produced a total of 37 recommendations, 12 of which related to the policy of cancellations.

It found “inconsistent and widespread breaches of FCPS policy by those charged with administering it and found no meaningful evidence of consistent quality management supervision”.

There was also no evidence of any auditing of cancellations at any level within An Garda Siochana.

Flanked by deputy chief inspectors Debra Kirby and Mark Toland, Mr Olson said he welcomed the commitment by Government to adopt the recommendations which the Inspectorate would review in 18 months time.

“The whole system that was in place and all the agencies that were in place, there was a significant amount of wasted human resources,” he said.

In relation to sergeant McCabe, whose information alongside former garda John Wilson helped precipitate several investigations into the penalty point system, he said: “We found that the information he gave us on the fixed charge penalty system was credible and I am not going to go any further than that.”

Several people made contact with the Inspectorate in relation to their review which began eight months ago but the information they provided was confidential.

Deputy chief inspector Toland said the “major issue” was failings in the delivery of summonses and this applied in particular to identifying the drivers of hire cars and companies who would not identify drivers. Recommendations have been made to address this failing, he said.

Mr Olson said he would not use the word “corrupt” with relation to the cancellation of points and said it was not within their remit to judge what, if any, damage the affair had had on public confidence in the force.

“Anything negative bothers citizens and I am hopeful that the actions that will now be taken will go a long way to building that confidence back,” he said.

Among the key recommendations were that a cancellation authority for fix charged notices should be centralised exclusively in the fixed charge processing office and the introduction of a clear policy on the cancellation of fixed charged notices, including a clear definition of ‘exceptional circumstances’.

The report also made reference to the possible introduction of “bar coded pre-summons notepads” in a bid to further upgrade the system.

Overall, Mr Olson explained, the significant changes should lead to a reduction in the amount of time required to process charges by gardai and by the courts.