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 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Road Traffic Offences

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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Topical Issue Debate

Road Traffic Offences

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Earlier today the Minister seemed to downplay the significance of the allegations reported by the two Garda whistleblowers. There also seem to be some discrepancies with regard to the timescale on this issue. The Minister says he only received news of this in September. I note that on the Matt Cooper show on Thursday, the Minister said he had sight of the documentation in question in early October. However, an e-mail from the confidential recipient, Oliver Connolly, to the garda in question, dated 21 June, stated that he personally delivered the garda's previous e-mail communication for the attention of the Minister and that he met previously with the Minister, just prior to Easter, regarding the matters of concern to the garda and presented his confidential report. It went on to say that he was doing what he could. In July another e-mail to the garda, from the assistant private secretary of the Taoiseach, following the garda's having written to the Taoiseach to alert him of the issues, stated that the Taoiseach had asked the secretary to refer to the garda's recent e-mail, the contents of which had been noted. It went on to say that the Taoiseach had asked the secretary to say that he had forwarded the garda's e-mail to his colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, for his attention and consideration. Furthermore, it stated the Taoiseach had asked the Minister to respond directly to the garda on this matter. This e-mail was dated 25 July 2012. As far back as February, when the garda went to the confidential recipient, the confidential recipient said to him that he believed the garda and thought the Commissioner had a case to answer. He said he thought the garda had the evidence. He said they had destroyed the garda, that a man only has his reputation and that if he, the recipient, was asked, he would say the garda was only standing up for what was right.

Obviously, the confidential recipient gave the report to the Minister and he passed it on to the Garda Commissioner. As a result, what we got was the Commissioner investigating himself. I believe it is time for a public inquiry, because the notion of the Garda investigating itself is not on.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly On Friday, the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, released a press statement saying there could be no question of what has been described as a culture of non-enforcement of penalties being tolerated. That is exactly the situation being spoken of. That is the only explanation for the termination of 100,000 parking, penalty and motoring offences. It is the only explanation for one senior garda being responsible for terminating 1,000 cases. Despite what the Minister said earlier, the Garda circular dealing with ticket cancellation policy, Circular 45/09, is incredibly restrictive and would not account for the number of cases terminated.

I agree with Deputy Wallace. The only conclusion we can draw is that this issue is being deliberately downplayed. The Commissioner has had this information since January. This is a Commissioner appointed by the Minister, whose contract has been extended beyond its normal life. Is it a coincidence that after the "Prime Time" programme last Tuesday, a confidential Garda memo, which I have here and which was sent to every member of the force, warned gardaí not to release Garda information to any external party, under pain of criminal prosecutions? The same memo said that the use of PULSE records would be audited and monitored in order to protect the reputation of An Garda Síochána. In other words, this memo was trying to intimidate whistleblowers, who are lawfully entitled to go to Members of the Oireachtas.

How can the Minister get to the truth when the Garda Commissioner has known about this since January and has done nothing about it? He was warned about perversion of the courts of justice by senior gardaí on a massive scale, as was the Minister. We need a full public inquiry into these allegations. The PULSE system needs to be seized, and IT specialists should be sent in to retrieve this information in the interest of road safety and revenue to the Exchequer.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins The Minister says we are making big assumptions on this issue and that this is an everyday occurrence. That cannot be the case considering the number of cases Deputy Daly has mentioned as having been taken off the system. From the information we have seen, it seems there has been malpractice and systematic abuse of the system.

This is not a question of a few celebrities such as Ronan O'Gara, Paul Williams or Mary Devins, whom I mentioned last week, or other judges or multiple gardaí.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Joe O'Reilly): Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly The Deputy cannot name names in the House.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I must object. This is outrageous. The Deputy is deliberately trying to force the recording of names, contrary to the rules of this House, into the record, to the detriment of individuals who cannot defend themselves.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins The Minister is the person who is supposed to protect the people and the law of this State. This is not a question of individuals.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Joe O'Reilly): Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly I ask the Deputy to resume her seat. It is not permitted to name people in this manner. I ask her to resume her seat and call on the Minister to reply.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins Why is that?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Joe O'Reilly): Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly The Deputy has named people in the House, which is an abuse of privilege.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins It is not an abuse of privilege. Perhaps the Acting Chairman should check that with the Ceann Comhairle. I do not think it is.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy knows it is. It is outrageous.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins We have taximen who have lost their ability to protect their livelihoods because of penalty points.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Joe O'Reilly): Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly I remind the Deputy that the naming of persons outside of the House is specifically regulated by Standing Orders and by the rulings of the Chair. The general practice is that such persons should not be named or referred to or identified, particularly where to do so would be an unreasonable invasion of privacy or where the reference could be in the nature of being a defamatory utterance under Standing Order 59. The persons who may be involved in the matter of penalty points, as raised in questions, are not guilty of any wrongdoing and are entitled to have their good names preserved. Therefore, I ask the Deputy to resume her seat as naming names is unacceptable.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins Well, I call for an independent public inquiry on this important issue.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I want to put on the record that the behaviour of the Deputies is outrageous. There is a pretence at wanting a public inquiry, but in fact what the Deputies want is a hanging. They want to make allegations, to prosecute them and to assume everyone is guilty. Why? Because they are the recipients of allegations.

All of the issues raised by the three Deputies relate to the same topic which was discussed earlier this afternoon on Question Time. I am conscious of this issue and of its importance. There is little I can say on the matter that has not already been covered. However, in the context of an issue raised by Deputy Wallace, it is true and correct that these matters came to my Department in September and it is true and correct that I did not have sight of them until early October. The reason for that is, as the Deputy may have noted, that I was unwell for a two-week period and was not in a position to deal with matters for those two weeks. I presume that is not an issue about which the Deputy cares greatly.

The allegations referred to by the Deputies are not that some people have had penalty points written off, but that in a number of cases members of the Garda Síochána have inappropriately cancelled fixed-charge notices, mainly for speeding. Of course, if they were cancelled, the result would be that penalty points were not applied. The allegations appear to be made on the basis of records of cancellation on the Garda PULSE system. The Deputies seem to be of the view that the Garda PULSE system should be accessible by anyone and that all information from it should be distributed, not just to Members of this House, but to members of the media. Clearly, that has happened in this case and that is a gross violation of confidentiality in the context of the workings of the system.

Fixed-charge notices are an alternative to prosecution and give a motorist the opportunity to acknowledge the offence, pay the fixed charge and, where the offence is a penalty point offence, incur the appropriate penalty points. If the motorist does not pay the fixed charge, he or she will in the normal course be prosecuted. With regard to the cancellation of fixed-charge notices, it appears from media reports of recent days and comments made in the House 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 notice which is subsequently cancelled is being afforded special treatment. Apparently, the view is that any individual who has such notice cancelled should be named and shamed in this House, which is a total disgrace. The assumptions made by the Deputies are incorrect. I am concerned that the outcome of the investigation being conducted into the allegations is being unfairly prejudiced and I urge caution.

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