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Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Garda whistleblower: The way I was treated destroyed me, my career, and my family

The Public Accounts Committee has published its report into the penalty points system today.

Updated 9.12pm

THE CHAIRMAN OF the Dáil’s spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, has said there are indications that the penalty points system continues to be abused.

John McGuinness was speaking at the launch of the PAC’s report into the administration of the fixed charge processing system which found that the State is losing between €5-6 million in unpaid road traffic fines every year.

The report notes that in his evidence to the committee last January, garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe told TDs that his treatment for speaking out had “destroyed me, my career and my family”.

McGuinness said that subsequent allegations made by McCabe about the penalty points system would appear to indicate that “the abuse of this system continues”.

Last month, McCabe is said to have alleged that off-duty members of the force have been cancelling points after falsely claiming they were driving Garda cars at the time of the offences.

It is not clear whether these cancellations took place after the reforms brought in by the acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan which give just three people the authority to cancel points. She has ordered a full audit of all penalty points cancelled since June, when a raft of new regulations came into force. 

PAC member and Fine Gael TD John Deasy said today he would expect the Comptroller and Auditor General to carry out an examination of that audit when it is completed.

‘Out of control’

McGuinness said that conclusions in PAC’s report reflect that “the system was out of control”.

But he noted that the final report does not make reference to former garda commissioner Martin Callinan having lost control of the system as was stated in the committee’s draft report.

This is likely a result of the Supreme Court judgement in the Abbeylara case which prevents Oireachtas committees from making findings of fact against individuals.

On the former garda chief’s infamous reference to the actions of whistleblowers as ‘disgusting’, Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell said it was the view of the committee that “Martin Callinan should not have said those words”.

McGuinness added that the onus was on the current garda commissioner to fix the system despite budgetary pressures, saying: “If you have a system that’s losing you €5 to 6 million a year then you’re going to have to do something about it.”

The PAC has recommended that the Fixed Charge Processing Office should report annually on the number of points cancelled using discretion and the number of petitions to cancel points received and rejected.

It also calls for the establishment of a whistleblower’s charter and says that the system of gardaí serving court summonses should be done via registered post.

There was widespread praise for McCabe at the report’s launch today with McGuinness saying he firmly believed the serving garda is “a catalyst” for change.

Improving the system

Responding to the publication of the report, interim Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said the force is “fully committed to improving the effectiveness and transparency of the penalty points system”.

She said major changes had already been introduced in June this year following reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Garda Inspectorate and that this new report is welcome as it will assist in the ongoing work to improve the system.

“On receiving the report, An Garda Síochána will immediately review the recommendations and examine how best they can be implemented as part of the on-going changes to the penalty points system,” she commented.

“As with all the stakeholders involved in the on-going development of the Fixed Charge Penalty System, An Garda Síochána’s primary focus is in ensuring that the penalty points system continues its success in improving road safety and reducing road deaths.”

- Additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Frances Fitzgerald: This is very different, we’re listening to Maurice McCabe

Read: “Should the gardaí get discretion?”: Ross rounds on ‘bent’ guards abusing the points system

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