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Caught Out

Fresh calls for Garda Commissioner to step down after latest revelations about false breath tests

Questions are being raised after 500,000 more false garda breath tests have been found.

Updated 4pm

THERE ARE FRESH calls for the Garda Commissioner to step down after it was revealed that a further 500,000 false breath tests were recorded but not carried out.

It was initially believed that between 2011 and 2016, just over 933,000 false breath tests were recorded on its PULSE computer systems.

The discovery of the new false breath tests was made during an investigation into how the original false breath tests were recorded by An Garda Síochána. The investigation found that in some cases the figures were exaggerated by as much as 300%.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he is “greatly disturbed” by the findings.

The reports identify serious and concerning problems in the operation of both the Mandatory Alcohol Testing checkpoint system and the Fixed Charge Processing System.

“Enormous responsibility and great trust is vested in An Garda Síochána and it is therefore vital that members of the force discharge their duties with professionalism and integrity,” minister Flanagan added.

Opposition parties are calling for Nóirín O’Sullivan to step down following the latest revelations.

Speaking to RTÉ News at One, Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan said the revelations were “scandalous” and that if he was the Minister for Justice he would “bring a memo to Cabinet to say it’s in the best interests of An Garda Síochána for there to be a change in the garda commissioner and for the garda commissioner to be removed”.

It confirms that gardaí were giving false information and establishes that gardai were acting dishonestly in carrying out their public duties.  We can’t simply pass on from that and say let’s now develop a new method of reform for the gardaí. There has to be a consequence for it.

However the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy has told reporters this afternoon that the government still has full confidence in the Garda Commissioner.

‘Deeply disturbing’ 

Speaking to The Irish Times this morning, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said that “the information that came out last year on breath tests… clearly unacceptable. But of course the suggestion that you have an additional 500,000 would be deeply disturbing”.

RTÉ Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds spoke on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland about his report into the findings.

The investigation doesn’t point to any one single reason why the falsifications were greater than previously thought, but it instead points to a number of factors, says Reynolds.

The Assistant Commissioner has found that the new findings reflect poorly on the professionalism of the organisation and has undermined public confidence in the police service, according to RTÉ.

An investigation by O’Sullivan has now found that the figure is over 1.4 million – more than half a million more than originally understood, although the new figures date back to 2009, not 2011.

The new data is based on figures for both the gardaí internal PULSE computer system and the Drager breathalyser devices. Over 1,200 Drager devices were used in 108 Garda districts.

The report determined that some individual gardaí were just making up figures.

According to Reynolds, Dublin figures were exaggerated by at least 68%, while in the South East region the exaggeration was over 153%.

A separate report looking into how almost 15,000 motorists were convicted in error over fixed charge penalties has also found system failures, along with a lack of understanding among gardaí as to how the system worked.

In a statement this afternoon, Sinn Féin justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said:

Sinn Féin has been of the view for a long time that the Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan is not a suitable person to lead the Garda Síochána through the reforms it so badly needs.

Financial auditors Crowe Horwarth have been commissioned by the Policing Authority to review the garda reports and carry out its own independent investigation. This is due to be completed later this month.

Additional reporting by Cliodhna Russell.

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