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Question

77. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to the fact that senior members of An Garda Síochána continued to abuse the penalty points system despite a change in practice in this area in June 2014; the actions that will be taken against these members; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4070/15]

78. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she is satisfied that the penalty points system is now beyond abuse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4071/15]

79. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the actions she will now take to protect the integrity of the penalty points system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4072/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 to 79, inclusive, together.
As the Deputy will be aware, yesterday I published the Garda Professional Standards Unit Examination of the Procedures, Policy and Decision Making Processes in Relation to Cancellations on the Fixed Charge Processing System of Road Traffic Offences. This report represents a further important milestone in addressing concerns in relation to the operation of the penalty points system, and builds on the new Garda Policy on the operation of the Fixed Charge Penalty System (FCPS) which came into effect on 16 June, 2014. The report recognises that significant improvements have been made, confirming that only the three persons authorised to cancel fixed charge notices under the new policy are in fact carrying out cancellations. Furthermore, the impact of the new policy is evident in the reduction in the number of cancellations on discretionary grounds.
It is the case, however, that the report has identified areas which require further attention and a series of recommendations are made to address these.
A number of these relate to Garda operations and procedures and have been accepted by the Commissioner. These include a proposal to establish a new Enforcement Unit within the Fixed Charge Processing Office to allow for more extensive enquiries to be made when considering whether to cancel a notice. This will include additional scrutiny of cases where notices are returned. Other system enhancements are also recommended, and accepted by the Commissioner.
A further key recommendation, which has also been accepted is that, in order to maintain public confidence in relation to the operation of the FCPS, where an application for cancellation is made by a Garda to avail of the statutory exemption for emergency vehicles where the Garda is driving a private vehicle in the course of their duties, such applications would now be forwarded to the Office of the DPP for evaluation.
The report also makes a number of recommendations with respect to legislative and related cross-cutting aspects of the fixed charge processing system, and I intend to refer these to the Criminal Justice (FCPS) Working Group for further examination. This group was set up to take forward the recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate on the FCPS and is jointly chaired by the Departments of Justice and Equality, and Transport, Tourism and Sport.
I have also decided, again in the interests of maintaining public confidence in the system, to put in place a further assurance and oversight mechanism. In particular, I have appointed Judge Matthew Deery, former President of the Circuit Court, to act as Independent Oversight authority for the FCPS cancellation process. This role would be in addition to the ongoing internal audit of the system. He would be free to inspect at random any fixed charge notice cancellation and report his or her findings on the operation of the system to the Minister.
Finally, it is also important to note that the Commissioner is forwarding the Report to GSOC, the CA&G and the Garda Inspectorate. The Garda Inspectorate had already indicated, as part of the recommendations in its March 2013 Report on the operation of the FCPS, that it intended to carry out a follow-up examination after 12 months, and this is expected to commence as indicated.
I am determined that the progress and improvements recognised in the report will continue and will be further enhanced by these additional measures I have announced, so that the public can have confidence in the operation of the penalty points system.