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 Header Item Penalty Point System (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Leaders' Questions

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter] With regard to the cancellation of fixed charge notices, it appears from media reports of recent days and comments made in Dáil Éireann that there is an assumption that any termination of a fixed charge notice is illegal and that any individual who is the recipient of such a notice which is subsequently cancelled is being afforded special treatment. Both assumptions are incorrect. I am concerned that the outcome of the investigation being conducted into the allegations is being unfairly prejudged and I urge caution in this regard.

As I said earlier, there are circumstances where a fixed charge notice may be cancelled in accordance with Garda procedures drawn up in the light of legislative exemptions and prosecutorial guidelines. Termination or cancellation occurs where it is believed the evidence would not sustain a prosecution or a prosecution would not be appropriate, fair or proportionate. Decisions on terminations or cancellations are governed by Garda policies and procedures, framed around the legislative and prosecutorial guidelines issued by the DPP.

Garda superintendents, district officers, inspectors or acting district officers have discretion to authorise cancellation in appropriate circumstances of fixed charge notices. These can include situations where, for example, exemptions apply to emergency vehicles, or where there are evidential difficulties, such as where the registration number registered by a speed camera does not correspond to the vehicle in question, or where there are emergency medical circumstances such as, for example, a medical certificate relating to the wearing of seatbelts, a sick child being driven to hospital, an imminent birth, a medical professional rushing to a sick or elderly patient or a driver of an ambulance response vehicle. Access to terminate a fixed charge processing incident through PULSE is restricted to users with a rank of inspector or higher.

I can confirm that these allegations were forwarded to my Department by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in September and, subsequently, by the Department of the Taoiseach, also in September. Following consideration of the documentation the allegations were forwarded to the Garda Commissioner in October last. The Garda Commissioner has appointed an assistant commissioner to conduct an examination and to report on the allegations. I have received an interim report from the Commissioner but I will not be making any comment on any of the allegations until the final report is available. I stress that these allegations are being taken seriously and are being thoroughly investigated. It would be premature and wrong to assume that all of these cancellations of fixed charge notices were inappropriate. I would caution against any rush to judgment before we know all of the facts. As the Garda Commissioner has said, this would be unfair both to members of the force and the motorists concerned. Let us await the outcome of the investigation which, as the Commissioner has said, will be both comprehensive and rigorous. I have every confidence that the investigation directed by the Commissioner into the allegations will be conducted with the utmost professionalism.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I have three Deputies to call and I ask them to be brief as we are almost out of time. Also, this matter is the subject of a Topical Issue to be debated later. I call Deputy Daly first.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly Nobody is arguing that there should not be exemptions but rather about how the exemptions are applied. The idea that tens of thousands of cases - I have seen the evidence of it - have simply been written off for legitimate reasons is questionable and is in breach of Garda regulations which actually specify that the criteria are very limited. I do not know how the Minister can say that if people write to the Garda Síochána they can get their penalty points written off when in actual fact if people do write they are told that the system is based on motorists taking their penalty points and if they are not happy, going to court to debate the issue in open court. I ask the Minister to confirm the basis of the investigation he has launched. How many cases are being investigated and what are the findings of the interim report?

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace In June last year the Minister for Justice and Equality said that "Any member or civilian employee of An Garda Síochána who wishes to report in confidence about corruption and malpractice can be assured that any such report will be taken seriously and extensive protections will be given to him or her". The two gardaí who came forward in January with allegations - not assumptions - of over 100,000 write-offs have received very little feedback and have had no recognition or protection. They have been ignored by the Government. The Minister is now trying to pretend that the Government heard nothing about this until September but the Minister first heard of this in January. It was raised with him again before Easter and in June and the Taoiseach was told about it in July. The Government has been sitting on its hands and this looks like a cover up.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I never cease to be amazed at people who are consumed by conspiracy theories.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan Maybe their theories are right.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I say to the Deputies yet again, very clearly, that the allegations they are referring to were made to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of the Taoiseach in September. They were referred to my Department in September and in October they were referred to the Garda Commissioner and they are being thoroughly investigated. Deputy Daly has made the sweeping claim that all of the tickets allegedly cancelled were cancelled in breach of Garda regulations.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I did not say that.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I wonder how she knows that because there are quite clearly a broad range of circumstances in which tickets can be properly cancelled and I have already given detail of those. I say to both Deputies that there will be no cover up, on my watch, of anything. I have the greatest confidence in the Garda Commissioner to ensure that these matters will be and are currently being properly investigated. There will also, on my watch, be no special treatment afforded to any individual whether he or she is a celebrity, a pal of someone or for any other reason. On my watch, the law will be properly applied. It is important that in dealing with this issue, like others, the gardaí have some discretion when, for example, a ticket is issued in circumstances where perhaps it should not have been issued - if it was the wrong driver or the wrong vehicle, the individual was driving an emergency service vehicle or a doctor was going to deal with an emergency in a hospital. There is a broad range of circumstances in which the gardaí can quite properly exercise discretion with regard to a ticket charge that was issued. I will give Deputy Daly an example. I can see the Deputy jumping up and down, shouting in circumstances in which the husband of a young pregnant woman who was about to give birth was sent a ticket because he got her to hospital just in time. In circumstances like that, of course the gardaí should be able to exercise their discretion.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace We are not talking about such cases.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly That is not what we are talking about at all.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace We are talking about 100,000 cases.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath That is an awful lot of pregnancies.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen The Minister is waffling now.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The numbers involved seem to grow every time Deputy Wallace says something.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace We have seen the evidence of it.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The letter that I have seen, with certain allegations in it, is the letter that has been furnished to the Garda Commissioner. All of the allegations contained in that letter, I am advised, are being fully and properly investigated. As I said to Deputy Mac Lochlainn, it is likely that this investigation will continue into the new year because of the nature of the allegations made. When the outcome of the investigation is known, I will make it known to the House.

Topical Issue Matters

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 27A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Dan Neville - the societal stigma of mental illness and suicide; (2) Deputy Derek Keating - the increased incidences of tuberculosis throughout Dublin city and county; (3) Deputies Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Joan Collins - the termination of motoring offences by members of An Garda Síochána; (4) Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn - concern over the proposed closure of Garda stations and the scrapping of Garda districts; (5) Deputy Paul J. Connaughton - the closure of Garda stations in County Galway; (6) Deputy Jonathan O'Brien - the proposed increase in the pupil-teacher ratio from 17:1 to 19:1 in respect of post leaving certificate programmes; (7) Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh - the change to PLC teacher-pupil ratio; (8) Deputy Ciara Conway - the need to tackle the role of alcohol in acts of sexual violence; (9) Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív - the need to maintain the rural social scheme; (10) Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin - the need to address recent incidents of racism in Irish sport and to update legislation in this regard; (11) Deputy Charlie McConalogue - the impact of a number of cuts in budget 2013 on the further education and training sector; (12) Deputy Billy Kelleher - the need for the Minister for Health to provide more details about the health budget in 2013; (13) Deputy Brendan Smith - the outbreak of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland following last Monday's meeting of Belfast City Council; (14) Deputy Robert Troy - the Supreme Court's judgment in the case of Mark McCrystal and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the Government of Ireland, Ireland and the Attorney General; (15) Deputy Mattie McGrath - problems with the operation of the SUSI telephone line dedicated to Oireachtas Members; (16) Deputy Brian Stanley - the ESRI report on the number of jobless households in this State; (17) Deputy Kevin Humphreys - the need to introduce a regulator for the waste industry; (18) Deputy Dessie Ellis - the danger to rough sleepers in the State over the very cold winter period; and (19) Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin - the impact of changes to pupil-teacher ratios on PLC courses, and the total number of teaching posts, in the Cavan-Monaghan area.

The matters raised by Deputies Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Joan Collins; Dan Neville; Ciara Conway; and Brendan Smith have been selected for discussion.

Leaders' Questions

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Most people across the country agree that last week's budget was deeply unfair and a very brutal one on the poorest and lowest income families. Today sees the commencement of the Social Welfare Bill. What has emerged from all of the disarray within Government prior to the formulation of this particular budget is the absolute determination of the Fine Gael members of Government to protect, at all costs, the wealthiest in society.

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