Garda report on quashing of Penalty Points

Pen Points Image

A whole lot of research to reveal not an awful lot of wrongdoing.

The problem with this whole affair is that its credibility rests or falls entirely on your faith in internal reports. There is no reason on this earthly world to suggest that the author of the report, Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney, has done anything other than a straight up job. But it is an internal report, and one of the most basic principles of natural justice is that you can’t be a judge in your own case. So even if it was countersigned by the Dalai Lama and rubber-stamped with added papal infallibility it would still suffer a credibility deficit.

Taking that as read the report completely dismisses some of the more headline grabbing allegations. Yes one Inspector did quash thousands of penalty points – 11,783 in three and half years – but that was his job in the Fixed Charge Notice Office. All of the system error, duplicate, poorly photographed penalty points that shouldn’t have been issued had to be terminated by him. No conspiracy, no skullduggery, just a lot of tedious data processing.

Equally the claims that lives could have been saved had points not been quashed were found to be completely without merit. Many of them were duplicate charges, in one instance the points were quashed but after the motorist had died so her family wouldn’t have to deal with a court appearance on her behalf.

And of nearly one and half million notices issued in the period being investigated only two family members of guards had points quashed not strictly in accordance with procedures. A mere 11 guards had them quashed on discretionary or compassionate grounds, in accordance with procedures.

Those 11 guards may have told a great sceal. They may have lied through their teeth. Or indeed they may have been entirely deserving of the compassion/discretion of their superior officer. In this report unfortunately we don’t find that out. It is one of the shortcomings of the report that we are not told what proof is required of somebody claiming medical emergency or similar extenuating circumstances.

It’s hard to ignore though that those 11 gardai account for less than 0.1% of the force. Even they may be entirely blameless. Was it for this that so much Dail time and political energy was spent.

There are three individuals, two Inspectors and a Superintendent, who are going to have to give a more detailed account of their actions. The report doesn’t say much more than their paperwork was sloppy. Those disciplinary procedures will disappear behind closed doors which is also far from satisfactory.

I examined all this in a lot more detail in my report on Drivetime this evening which is podcast here.

You can draw your own conclusions, and no doubt the division lines between those who doubt the claims of the independent deputies and those who dismiss any Garda investigation into themselves have already been drawn.  Before you do though, look at these two charts .

1537 of the quashed Penalty Points Notices that had had the finger of suspicion pointed at them were justified by the authors of the report as follows.
Pen Points Table

Then they took a random sample of quashed points for comparitive purposes which were accounted for as follows.

Pen Points Table 2
In a system that issued nearly one and half million Fixed Charge Penalty Notices in the three and half years under investigation there would appear to be a strong degree of correlation between the “suspect” terminations and the “randomly chosen” terminations. Unless somebody has massaged the figures beyond recognition
these two charts would point to the “suspect” figures as being pretty run of the mill.

Draw your own conclusions or read the whole report here.

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