Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) has called on An Garda Síochána Inspectorate to undertake a review of internal whistleblower procedures after a report was published by the Garda into alleged abuse of Fixed Charge Notice records by members of the service today.
Two Garda whistleblowers informed the internal Garda confidential recipient and senior Garda management of the apparent abuse of the Garda ‘Pulse’ database system that records traffic violations in March 2012. The two Gardaí claim that they presented evidence of tens of thousands of altered records that expunged traffic offence penalties for members of the public as well as members of the judiciary, Gardaí, and their family members. In spite of their reports, no formal investigation into the alleged practice appears to have taken place until after the two gardaí reported their concerns to members of Dáil Éireann during the autumn of 2012.
After an internal inquiry was announced by An Garda Síochána, the two Gardaí who exposed alleged malpractice claim they were not interviewed by the inquiry team to help establish the veracity of the evidence presented to Garda management. Furthermore, the whistleblowers were informed that they would not be allowed to use the Garda database without supervision and were told not to communicate their concerns on the issue any further. They also claim that were subjected to harassment by colleagues. One of the two Gardaí has since taken early retirement and described his position after reporting his concerns as ‘untenable’.
‘It appears that the practice of wiping penalty points from drivers’ records has stopped and we welcome any measures aimed at preventing further abuse of the system. However, this practice would likely have continued where it not for the bravery of the two Gardaí who brought this to the attention of Garda management and public representatives. The public should be thankful that these two men risked their careers to make our roads safer’, said John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland.
‘I believe the two Garda whistleblowers acted in good faith; they never alleged that Garda were acting out of financial self-interest in clearing Pulse records; they reported their concerns in compliance with Garda regulations; and in spite of reference to an ‘anonymous’ complainant in today’s report, both whistleblowers lent their names to the complaints. What is more, they should not have had to bring this issue to anyone other than the Garda Confidential Recipient. The fact that they did, should be examined by the Garda Inspectorate’, Mr Devitt added.
TI Ireland have also called on any future irregularities involving Fixed Charge Notices be brought to the attention of the Garda Inspectorate who will be given the power to investigate irregularities as part of an ongoing review of the system.
Notes for Editors
· TI Ireland operates Ireland’s only free and independent helpline for whistleblowers and witnesses called Speak Up (www.speakup.ie). The helpline offers support to whistleblowers; offers a free legal referral service and advises clients on ways in which to make reports in good faith.
· TI has also developed international whistleblower principles in collaboration with inter-governmental and non-governmental bodies. The principles were published in 2010 and are available at http://transparency.ie/sites/default/files/09_12_02%20ti-draft%20principles%20WB%20legislation.pdf
· The role of the Garda Confidential Recipient ‘is to be available to receive in confidence reports of corruption or malpractice within An Garda Síochána from Garda members or civilian employees’.
· The objective of An Garda Siochana Inspectorate is ‘to ensure the resources available to the Garda Síochána are used to achieve and maintain the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness in its operation and administration, as measured by reference to the best standards of comparable police services’.
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