Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the person directly responsible for management of recently released Garda statistics in regard to road alcohol checks has been identified with a view to ascertaining the way in which the misrepresentation of the figures occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15926/17]
116. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the person directly responsible for management of recently released Garda statistics in regard to wrongful conviction of motorists under the Road Traffic Acts has been identified with a view to ascertaining the way in which the misrepresentation of the figures occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15927/17]
117. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the person or body responsible for the recording through PULSE of all offences in each Garda division throughout the country; if the logging, recording and management of the PULSE system rests with one or a number of persons in each Garda division; the way in which this might be improved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15928/17]
118. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of offences deemed to have been misrecorded or misrepresented arising from each Garda division throughout the country in each of the past five years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15929/17]
119. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the level each Garda station records offences under the Road Traffic Acts or other acts; the extent to which verification is required in the event of incorrect or misleading information being transmitted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15930/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 to 119, inclusive, together.
I can inform the Deputy that I have met with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority in the past days and have communicated my very serious concerns in relation to the significant road traffic enforcement errors that have come to light following the completion of extensive internal audits by An Garda Síochána.
The Deputy will be aware that An Garda Síochána has confirmed that it has put solutions in place to deal with the procedural and practice issues that have been detected to ensure that such errors do not recur. Specifically, I have been assured by An Garda Síochána that a permanent and comprehensive IT solution is now in place to cover the majority of FCPS issues identified and An Garda Síochána is satisfied that the errors that occurred cannot be repeated. In the case of breath tests/Mandatory Alcohol Testing, I am informed that An Garda Síochána initially put in place new paper based recording and verification processes, and, in November 2016, a new specific data recording IT upgrade was installed on the Garda PULSE system. The net effect of the new IT upgrade was that personnel now have to record the serial number of the device used for each breath test plus the meter reading before and after the checkpoint was concluded. Data from the device is now used to verify the total number of breath tests conducted at each checkpoint.
In addition, the Garda Commissioner has:
- announced the restructuring of traffic policing with the creation of a new Roads Policing Unit to be led by Assistant Commissioner Mick Finn;
- announced the creation of a dedicated team under newly-appointed Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan to investigate in detail the MATs issue, including with a view to identifying and holding responsible for their actions any Garda members, whether at junior, supervisory or management level, who acted improperly; and
- committed to forwarding the report of this investigation to the Policing Authority and Department of Justice and Equality when completed.
As regards carrying out and recording breath tests under Mandatory Alcohol Testing, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible to identify specific internal system failures in An Garda Síochána until such time as Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan's investigation is completed. Similarly, in addition to the solutions put in place by An Garda Síochána outlined above, additional proposals to improve the recording, verification and management of road traffic enforcement data on the PULSE system arising from Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan's investigation will be pursued following the completion of the investigation. While I acknowledge that a number of the Deputy's questions seek to identify Garda members responsible for the oversight of these road traffic enforcement matters in An Garda Síochána, these enforcement issues are also of grave concern to An Garda Síochána at a corporate level.
Notwithstanding any internal review the Government believes that an external investigation into these two specific matters needs be carried out.
The Government believes the level of public concern is now so profound that it may now be time to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and independent root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána. That is clearly a proposal that will require further detailed consideration by the Government.
The Government also believes that any such proposal should command widespread support in the Oireachtas and accordingly be the subject of consultation with the Opposition, and ultimately approval by the Oireachtas.
The Garda Commissioner has been in direct contact with the Policing Authority in relation to the matters referred to in the Deputy's questions and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, has confirmed that the Authority will:
- have an independent professional audit undertaken of the steps taken to resolve the issues; and
- oversee the investigation being undertaken by Assistant Commissioner O’Sullivan.
I welcome the fact that the focus of the Authority's next public meeting with the Garda Commissioner will be on road traffic enforcement. This public meeting will be held on 27 April 2017 and will provide a most timely opportunity for An Garda Síochána to engage with the Authority and the general public on these critical procedural and practice issues that are now before us. The reason that I prioritised and set up the Authority was to shine a light on and examine issues such as these.
I will continue to maintain close contact with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority in relation to these matters.