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Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Callinan "has no axe to grind" with penalty points whistleblowers

The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee questioned the Garda Commissioner on the recent report on the quashing of penalty points.

GARDA COMMISSIONER MARTIN Callinan was questioned today by the Oireachtas’ Committee of Public Accounts on the recent penalty points allegations.

A report published yesterday into the practice of some gardaí quashing penalty points found that anonymous allegations made about inappropriate writing off of Fixed Charge notices ‘cannot be substantiated to any degree’.

However, it identified three possible departures from administrative procedural guidelines in respect of terminations conducted by three terminating officers. They were among 113 terminating offices who were included in the investigation.

“I have no axe to grind with these people,” Callinan said of the penalty points whistleblowers, adding they did what they thought was appropriate from their perspective.

However, he said he did not agree with some of the cases in the report.


The Commissioner acknowledged the penalty points report from Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney and said that the recommendations made in the report will be examined.

When questioned on the integrity of a non-independent report, Callinan spoke of O’Mahoney’s honesty and integrity, saying he has a good reputation.

O’Mahony picked a team to look at “this very disturbing level of allegations that were made”, said Callinan, and he is “very satisfied that” O’Mahoney and his team would leave no stone unturned in their investigation.

Commissioner Callinan said that powers of discretion arise in the enforcement of road traffic matters.

Callinan said that “when you are dealing with a discretionary issue” that it is extremely hard to be absolutely prescriptive or descriptive in terms of legislating because people meet individual circumstances and have to deal with them as best they see fit using professional judgement.

Callinan said that the most they can do “is provide guidance to our members that when considering a part set of circumstances” it is important they apply principles of fairness and impartiality.

He said that in such cases they have to look at the corroboration of some of the things they are being told. He added he is a very strong proponent of discretion and that he thinks the citizens of this country have been very well served in the past having the power of discretion available to an Garda Síochána.


Deputy Shane Ross said that the commissioner had “rubbished” the report, and that some people would have serious reservations about the fact no independent internal investigation took place.

Callinan denied “rubbishing” the report. Ross told him “you’re in a spat whether you like it or not” with the Garda Síochana Ombudsman Commission over this, and asked him what he is going to do about what was said in the report.

Callinan said that the allegations sent to him by the department about the penalty points situation were anonymous and that it involved a person in a station being confronted by a sergeant after printing off documents from the Pulse system. It emerged that he and another person were providing information to a politician in relation to the penalty points system.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald questioned Commissioner Callinan on this, saying she didn’t accept his rationale about the way the matter was investigated. She said that there might be a dispute over the date when the information was reported.

McDonald said that the two individuals concerned said they had raised the issue with the authorities in March 2012.

Callinan said that when this matter was brought to his attention, he received two lists, which totalled 400 allegations. He said after duplicates were removed, it led to 189 separate allegations. He said when he was presented with the allegations he brought it to management.

McDonald said the situation raises a lot of questions, “not least the efficiency or effectiveness of whistle blowing”, and asked how several months elapsed after a serious allegation was made. The Commissioner said that he took the allegations very seriously, which is why he passed them to the assistant commissioner.

When asked about any recent complaints, Callinan said “they are small in number” and that his obligation is to receive them, investigate them and report back.

He said that the allegations “are far too serious for me to ignore or push under the door somewhere” and suggested that it may be the case that some of these matters came before the confidential reporting system and he wasn’t aware.

Read: Gardaí should be able to quash penalty points for ‘humanitarian reasons’>

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