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'We want to make sure that the public can have confidence in us'

A report found 114 penalty point cancellations required further investigation.

Source: Niall Carson

We want to make sure that the public can have confidence…

GARDA COMMISSIONER NÓIRÍN O’Sullivan has said it is important now that the public can be reassured that robust systems have been put in place to prevent abuse of the penalty points system in Ireland.

A new report today that looked examined 667 penalty point cancellation decisions found 114 required further investigation. Despite allegations that there had been widespread abuse of penalty points after June 2014 – when the current Garda policy on operation of the Fixed Charge Penalty System was introduced – just seven cases of this were identified after that time.

“This is something that’s a matter of great importance for the Irish public and members of the public who need to know how the penalty points system works,” commented the Commissioner today, adding that the force wanted policy on this to be “completely transparent”.

“We want to make sure that the public can have confidence…”, she told reporters.

Five of the cases since June that required further investigation were classified as ‘Undelivered An Post’. At a briefing today, senior gardaí explained that the system in place meant that if a person was not at the address the notice was sent to and it was returned to gardaí, it frequently had to be cancelled. This is because of the 28 day deadline that gardaí have to reissue it.

A recommendation as been made in the report by the Garda Professional Standards Unit (GPCU), that this deadline be frozen to allow gardaí make further enquiries about the actual address of the person involved and reissue their notice.

It was announced today that the Director of Public Prosecution will make the decision when gardaí wish to have points cancelled on the basis that they were performing official duties at the time.

The report stated that findings relating to senior gardaí who continued to cancel penalty points have been forwarded to the Garda Ombudsman.

Launching the report earlier today, the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said, “The penalty point system forms an important element of a road safety strategy.

I am determined that these improvements will continue and that there will be no hiding place for members of the public or of An Garda Síochána if they seek to abuse the system.

Minister Fitzgerald also announced the appointment of Judge Matthew Deery as a new independent authority with responsibility for overseeing the system.

The authority will be free to inspect at random any fixed charge notice cancellation and report his findings to the Minister.

‘Line in the sand’

Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Fitzgerald said today: “The introduction of new policy last June marked a line in the sand.

“Since then we have seen full centralisation of decision-making, a clear application process for members of the public, revised guidelines for cancellation, and provision for audit of the decision-making process.

This is indicative of the new approach now being taken. There are less cases open to question and those that may be are being fully scrutinised.

Individual Superintendents are no longer authorised to cancel points and the GPSU report also found that since the new procedures were introduced – only the three individuals authorised to carry out cancellations have in fact carried them out.

- With additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Read: ‘There is no hiding place for anyone who cancelled penalty points’>

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