Commissioner fears garda malpractice could extend deeper into force

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan will tell the Oireachtas Justice Committee tomorrow that data falsification may not be confined to traffic

Commissioner fears garda malpractice could extend deeper into force

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan at a press conference at Garda headquarters in Phoenix Park | Image: RollingNews.ie

The Commissioner of An Garda Síochána is set to reveal that the malpractice that led to the latest series of scandals engulfing the force may extend deeper than feared.

Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is due before the Oireachtas Justice Committee tomorrow – however her opening remarks were published by the Irish Independent this afternoon.

The commissioner will offer her sincere apologies to the public for the “grave mistakes and wrongdoing” over the past ten years that led to the latest revelations.

Significantly however, she will also reveal her concern that the malpractice could extend outside of roads policing - and to other areas of the force.

“The fact is that we now know some Gardaí recorded numbers that were false,” she will tell the committee. “At worst, this was deception. At best, this was incompetence.”

“Either way, it was individually and organisationally shameful, and will be seen to be shameful by the public and the thousands of Gardaí around the country who operate every day to the highest ethical standards.

She will admit that the scandals raise serious questions over supervision and management within the force adding: “My fear – and my real fear - is that this falsification is not confined to traffic data.” 

The commissioner was called before the committee after garda officials revealed thousands of court summonses were issued over a ten year period for road offences that did not require them.

Thousands of convictions could be overturned as a result.

It also emerged that official garda figures had recorded almost one million roadside breath tests that never occurred.

Collective failure

“Given the scale of these issues, they can’t simply be blamed on one individual or one area. It is a collective failure,” the commissioner will tell the committee. “From top down to bottom up.” 

“We all take responsibility for this; and all take responsibility for establishing how this happened and ensuring it cannot happen again.”

“Those mistakes and wrongdoings are unacceptable in policing terms, unacceptable in ethical terms, unacceptable in terms of public trust, and - most critically - unacceptable to the advocacy and support groups involved in road safety and to those who were wrongly brought to Court.”

The commissioners opening remarks to the committee were revealed by Irish Independent journalist, Niall O’Connor this afternoon.

He told Newstalk that her comments will, "prove deeply, deeply alarming" for the Cabinet and for the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald who has so far maintained confidence in the commissioner.

Speaking before the Dáil yesterday evening Minister Fitzgerald said she was aware there was an issue with wrongful convictions as far back as June 2016 - but insisted she was unaware of the scale of the problem until it was revealed last week.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Justice Jim O'Callaghan accused the minister of ignoring the problem when she became aware of it.

"As Minister for Justice you have been aware for nine months that there were wrongful convictions before our District Court and, in my submission, you did nothing about it," he told the Dáil yesterday.

Speaking to Newstalk this evening, he said 

"It is a question that jumps out at everyone," he said. "Why is that An Garda Síochána did not tell the Policing Authority about the discrepancies which it knew in the breath test issue until the 21st of March 2017, notwithstanding the fact that they became aware of this from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety back in July 2014."