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Garda whistleblowers' use of PULSE system criticised by Data Commissioner

The Garda Commissioner has said he shares the concerns “and I have expressed my disquiet about this publically on several occasions”.

File photo - Billy Hawkes
File photo - Billy Hawkes
Image: Photocall Ireland

THE DATA PROTECTION Commissioner has criticised the two garda whistleblowers for inappropriately accessing the force’s PULSE data system.

Billy Hawkes said that while sergeant Maurice McCabe and retired garda John Wilson had performed a public duty by reporting misuse of the penalty points system, he couldn’t stand over the manner in which they accessed the information, according to RTÉ News.

His comments followed the release of an audit of Garda data protection measures between 2011 — October 2013 carried out by Hawkes’ office.

According to a statement from the Data Protection Commissioner:

In his 2012 Annual Report, the Data Protection Commissioner outlined that the initial phase of the audit had uncovered inappropriate access to PULSE by members of An Garda Síochána.

Assurances have been received from An Garda Síochána in relation to measures it has already taken to monitor access to PULSE.

The statement continues that “overall, the majority of areas examined demonstrated a professional police force operating in compliance with data protection legislation”.

In his response to the report’s publication, the Garda Commissioner has said he welcomes the overall findings.

According to Martin Callinan’s statement:

The ODPC is right to be concerned about any improper access to PULSE by any member of An Garda Síochána and the related risk of the disclosure of highly sensitive personal data outside of the organisation.

As An Garda Síochána’s Data Controller, I share these concerns and I have expressed my disquiet about this publically on several occasions.

In that context, a number of Garda members have been subject to discipline for inappropriate access to Pulse within the period of the audit process.

The Garda Commissioner has come in from renewed criticism in recent days for his stance in relation to the issue. Three Cabinet ministers have been publicly critical of his comments regarding the garda whistleblowers made before the Public Accounts Committee in January.

Callinan had said that the manner of the release of information by the two was “disgusting”. He has since clarified that he was referring to the release of personal information, not the two gardaí.

The full report from the Data Protection Commissioner can be viewed online here. The section dealing with access to the PULSE system begins on page 30.

Read: The Tánaiste thinks the Garda Commissioner should withdraw ‘disgusting’ remark

Read: ‘We’ve been over this ground’: Kenny won’t say if Callinan should apologise to whistleblowers

Read: Varadkar says Callinan should withdraw ‘disgusting’ remarks – but gardaí say he won’t

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