Latest garda revelations a "matter of grave disappointment"

The Garda Commissioner has confirmed that new processes and systems have been put in place to ensure the mistakes cannot be repeated

The Garda Commissioner has admitted that the latest controversies facing the force are “totally unacceptable” and not in keeping with the standards of a modern police service.

It emerged on Thursday that thousands of court summonses were issued over a ten year period for road offences that did not require them.

Of those, 96% were included alongside other offences that could have landed them in court - but almost 6,000 were stand-alone and should have received a fixed charge notice instead.

Thousands of drivers are likely to have their penalties overturned as a result.

Official figures also revealed that almost one million roadside breath tests were recorded between 2011 and 2016 that never occurred.

Uncovering of malpractice "inevitable"

Nóirín O’Sullivan insisted the force is on “a journey of radical reform” under her stewardship adding that it is “inevitable” the process will lead to the discovery of further examples of bad practice. 

She confirmed that new processes and systems have been put in place to ensure the discrepancies cannot be repeated - and has written to the Policing Authority seeking an external review of the controls that are in place.

“In addition to correcting these issues, we must share that information, no matter how negative it is, not just with the Authority, but also with the public,” she said. “Only through that openness can we sustain public trust.”

She said both the Policing Authority and garda management are of the view that the crisis stems from “individual and collective ethical behaviour” and is not a matter of “occasional systems failure.”

Grave disappointment

"We’re looking at a problem that goes back more than a decade,” said the commissioner.

"This is an issue – as the Authority has pointed out – which is more than systemic. It’s about ethics.  It’s about supervision.  It’s about measurement.  Most of all, it’s about trust.

She said it is “a matter of grave disappointment” that the malpractice appears to have been happening for so long, unchallenged  and called on every individual member of the force to recognise that their individual actions reflect on the organisation as a whole and impacts on public trust in the  force.

“As evidenced this week, I am determined that where we identify problems in the organisation, we admit these issues publicly, take whatever corrective action is necessary and ensure they do not recur,” she said.

“That is what I expect of the organisation and what is demanded of us by the community.”

Yesterday evening the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald indicated she would back the commissioner to remain in her position but warned that the process that allowed the errors to occur over many years will need to be "fully addressed."

She said the new systems that have been put in place will need to be “robust, tested and verified in the time ahead.”

External review

Commissioner O’Sullivan is now seeking a review by the Garda Inspectorate to examine:

  • The processes used to identify the nature and extent of the problems.
  • The control measures put in place to address the issues.
  • The current roadside breath testing processes to discover if they are in line with best practice.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan has been directed to undertake a detailed analysis of the work undertaken to date and confirm whether the revelations were the result of individual or system failures.

The Garda Internal Audit Section is also undertaking an examination of the computer issue which led to wrongful legal cases being taken against drivers.

The assistant commissioner has been asked to consider whether any further actions need to be taken - and the gardaí are due to provide an initial report on their findings to the Policing Authority within one month.

"We have taken corrective action,” said Commissioner O’Sullivan.  "We are asking that the corrective action be externally validated.  That will reassure the public.” 

A help line to provide information to affected drivers affected is due to come online from Monday 03 April.