Check Against Delivery
TOPICAL ISSUE DEBATE
To discuss the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General Report on the cancellation of penalty points
– Pádraig MacLochlainn TD
The findings in the Comptroller and Auditor General report on the cancellation of road traffic penalty points
– Joe Higgins TD
A Cheann Comhairle
I am glad of this opportunity to comment on the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General in his report on the Garda fixed charge processing system.
I welcome these findings, because they confirm what went wrong with the system and what needed to be fixed. Broadly speaking, the findings echo the findings of the examination of the same allegations which was carried out by Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Mahoney.
I published the O’Mahoney report, and also a related report by the Garda Professional Standards Unit, earlier this year and referred them to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.
Perhaps the key point is that the O’Mahoney report broadly identified the same key issues of concern relating to the operation of the fixed charge processing system identified by the C&AG, namely a failure to follow cancellation procedures in a significant number of cases, a lack of adequate record-keeping, and an inconsistency, and in many cases a laxity, in accepting justifications for speeding and other road traffic offences.
There is absolutely no doubt that the findings of the C&AG reinforce both the concerns identified by the O’Mahoney report about weaknesses in the fixed charge notice system, and the case for corrective action.
And action has been taken:
• Disciplinary proceedings were taken against a number of members of the Garda Síochána, and a number of others were advised of the absolute necessity to follow correct procedures.
• A new Garda directive on the cancellation of fixed charge notices was issued to the entire Force on 30 August 2013, aimed at significantly tightening up on procedures for cancellation.
• The Garda Commissioner has accepted and will implement specific and helpful recommendations by the C&AG on improving the fixed charge notice system, and how it inter-acts with the courts service and the driver licencing system.
In addition, as I have previously indicated, I have referred the two Garda reports to the independent Garda Inspectorate for its advice on any further measures which may be desirable, and I expect to receive a report from the Inspectorate in the near future.
I welcome the action taken by the Garda Commissioner, and his commitment to implement the further recommendations of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The result will be a fixed charge notice system which is more open and transparent, and more robustly operated. This is essential if public confidence in the system and in the enforcement of road traffic law is to be maintained. The Garda Síochána, along with the Road Safety Authority and other stakeholders, have done so much in recent years to improve road safety and reduce fatalities. Everything must be done to maintain that progress, and the Garda Commissioner has my full support in the strong action he is taking.
It is only fair to acknowledge that these reports, and their findings and recommendations, are in response to allegations of improper cancellation of fixed charge notices. But any fair assessment must also conclude, on the evidence available, that a great many of the most serious allegations have been found to be utterly without basis, including allegations of avoidable road fatalities linked to speeding drivers being improperly let off fixed charge notices, and allegations of hundreds of PULSE records being destroyed.
Perhaps most significantly, the member of the Garda Síochána making the allegations rejects the findings of the O’Mahoney report, and continues to claim that there has been widespread corruption and criminality on the part of senior members of the Garda Síochána. These are exceptionally serious allegations, for which the O’Mahoney report found no basis in fact. My Department has written to the member concerned urging him to come forward with any evidence he may have to justify these allegations.
In conclusion, I welcome the finding of the Comptroller and Auditor General. They are in line with the findings of the report by Assistant Commissioner O’Mahoney published earlier this year, and I fully support the Garda Commissioner in the decisive action he is taking on foot of them.
1 October 2013