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'It's crazy really': Gardaí spend €80,000 on taxis to escort people in custody

Officers have said the use of taxis is usually a resourcing issue.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA has spent more than €80,000 so far this year on taxis to transport people who are in garda custody.

In response to questions from Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson Niall Collins, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald revealed €227,873 was spent by the force last year on taxis.

She said people are transported to prison in garda vehicles by officers as part of their routine duty.

The use of other methods of conveyance, ie taxis, “where deemed operationally expedient by the Commissioner”, cost €244,711 in 2012 and €208,047 in 2013.

Sources told TheJournal.ie that the use of taxis is often a resourcing issue. Regulations state that there should be two gardaí for every one prisoner in a vehicle. This excludes the garda who is driving, unless the person in custody is being transported in a vehicle that has a built-in cell to separate them. Using a taxi means two officers would be required, rather than three.

“Official transport is to be used where a prisoner is dangerous or likely to attempt to escape,” one garda explained. “In other words a taxi wouldn’t be used as the driver would be exposed to danger, but a car or minibus could be hired and a garda driver used.”

Taxis are normally used for escorting people accused of minor crimes when a garda vehicle is not available.

“It’s crazy really, as most are being transported to prison on penal warrants and a taxi probably costs more than a fine,” another source said. “And most of the time they get released almost immediately.”

In February this year, the Irish Examiner reported the case of a single mother from Donegal who was taken from her home all the way to Dublin in a taxi by gardaí for not paying the full fine on her TV licence. She spent three hours in the Dóchas centre women’s prison before being given a voucher to make her way back to Donegal.

In her response, the Minister said a breakdown of costs of transporting people to prison for the non-payment of fines is not readily available and would require an inordinate amount of administrative resources to obtain.

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