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Gardaí recorded almost one million more breath tests than they actually carried out

Gardaí said there was no single reason that would account for why they got the figures so wrong.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA dramatically miscounted the number of breath tests carried out by gardaí over the past five years, overestimating the actual figure by almost one million.

At a press conference today, gardaí said that they had discovered a “significant discrepancy” in the number of breath tests that gardaí actually carried out between October 2011 and December 2016.

The Pulse system says that 1,996,365 breath tests were carried out across Ireland during the five year period. However the Medical Bureau of Road Safety Data found the figure was actually 1,058,157.

A review of breath test data in the southern region in 2015 revealed discrepancies in garda data and a full review was then launched last year.

When a garda takes a breath test, they record the information on a paper form and then input this data into the Pulse system. The 2016 review identified significant gaps in the manually recorded breath test data.

Using data provided by the MCRS, it was confirmed that there was a deficit between the Pulse information and the number of breath tests recorded on the devices.

New recording system

Asked whether gardaí had been making up figures, Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn said: “I don’t know. Certainly they weren’t recording them correctly”.

He said there was no one single reason that may account for this discrepancy.

In November last year, a new specific data recording IT upgrade was installed on the Pulse system which required officers to record the serial number of the device used plus the meter reading before and after the checkpoint was concluded – something they did not have to do before this.

The data since then is accurate, according to Finn, who said it had also been compared to MBRS data. However, gardaí are now taking down the breath test data that is currently published on their website.

‘Deep cultural problems’

In a statement, the Policing Authority said that while it is encouraging that information is being put in the public domain, the authority is “alarmed at the scale of the discrepancies”.

This is not just an academic statistical matter, it is an ethical one. It raises serious questions of integrity for the Garda Síochána organisation and combined with previous issues regarding inflated activity levels, erodes confidence in the credibility of Garda data generally.

The authority said it raises widespread concern about the way gardaí go about their daily work and about management and supervision. The scale of the discrepancy is “further evidence of deep cultural problems” within the service, it added.

“I can’t just blame rank and file gardaí, we all have a responsibility to share here,” Finn told reporters.

A fact-finding investigation has been established, led by Superintendent Pat Murray who is based in Athlone. However, Finn said gardaí only began keeping paper-based records with device details and information about who conducted a checkpoint last year.

The investigation is an internal one, and the results may not be made public.

- Reporting by Michelle Hennessy

 

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