Callinan declines to reveal next move on whistleblowers

‘I have my own backyard to watch, and I intend to be as transparent as I have to be’ says Garda chief

When asked at a press conference in Dundalk, Co Louth, this evening if he planned to go to the courts for an injunction aimed at stopping a whistleblower appearing before the Public Accounts Committee  next week, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan  declined to outline any possible actions on his part. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

When asked at a press conference in Dundalk, Co Louth, this evening if he planned to go to the courts for an injunction aimed at stopping a whistleblower appearing before the Public Accounts Committee next week, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan declined to outline any possible actions on his part. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has said while he has the “height of respect” for the work of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), he also had to watch his own “backyard”.

Yesterday, after the PAC told him it was inviting a serving garda sergeant before it to outline fresh allegations around gardaí terminating motorists’ penalty points, Mr Callinan said he was against that happening and said he planned to take legal advice.

He has since consulted with the Attorney General and developments are expected next week.

Mr Callinan insisted at the PAC yesterday there were mechanisms for Garda whistleblowers to raise concerns on any issues.

He did not believe inviting gardaí before an Oireachtas committee to make allegations of criminal wrongdoing against their colleagues was wise, saying it was a challenge to his authority and undermined the discipline the force was grounded in.

When asked at a press conference in Dundalk, Co Louth, this evening if he planned to go to the courts for an injunction aimed at stopping the whistleblower appearing before the PAC next week, he declined to outline any possible actions on his part.

“I have the height of respect for the Public Accounts Committee, I’ve said that on a number of times during [yesterday’s] session,” he said.

“They do extremely important work for the citizens of this country and I don’t want to do anything to hamper that situation.

“But I have my own backyard to watch, and I intend to be as transparent as I have to be when appearing before these people and providing the type of information that they require.

“I have no difficulty at all as the Commissioner and accounting officer of An Garda Síochána in providing that type of information.”

He said yesterday he believed the force and the PAC would be on a “rocky road” if his “subordinates” were granted a platform for making such serious allegations before the committee.

A second whistleblower, who has retired from the force, has also been raising his concerns about penalty points for the past two years.

A PAC hearing is scheduled to take place next Thursday at which the serving garda sergeant is due to appear, barring any injunction.

Mr Callinan also told the PAC yesterday he was concerned that the two whistleblowers had printed large volumes of documents from the Garda’s computerised Pulse database at regular intervals and distributed them to a number of parties, which he found “disgusting”.

This had been done by the men in an effort to support their claims that thousands of penalty points are being cancelled every year by gardaí, despite there being no legitimate grounds for the cancellations.

Mr Callinan believed data protection legislation had been breached and he did not rule out disciplinary action against the whistleblower still serving.

He insisted those viewing the documents were looking at only a “snapshot” of each case and that documents outlining legitimate reasons for the cancellation of points could not be accessed or printed by the whistleblowers.

It meant cases were being debated, and conclusions of abuse of procedure arrived at, in the absence of correspondence that explained most of the cancellations.

He accepted there were “fault lines” in the procedures offering discretion to Garda members in cancelling points incurred by motorists who may have had exceptional reasons for speeding.

However, the matter had been investigated and files sent to the DPP in a small number of cases.

While about 10,000 cancellations occurred per year in recent years, this was the equivalent of two cases per district per week, or 2.6 per cent of about 1.46 million notices issued.