Breath test scandal ‘has been swept under carpet’

The breath test scandal has been “swept under the carpet”, according to a road safety lobby group.

Parc (Promoting Awareness, Responsibility, and Care) said that the decision by acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin not to discipline gardaí for the mass falsification of breath tests sent out a “dangerous message” to gardaí on the ground.

Parc Road Safety Group chairwoman Susan Gray said she was left “exasperated” after watching the public meeting of the commissioner with the Policing Authority last week.

Mr Ó Cualáin apologised “unreservedly” for what he said was “sloppy, lazy and unprofessional” behaviour which resulted in 1.9m fake breath tests being recorded on the Garda Pulse computer system over an eight-year period.

He said while there were “understandable” calls — including from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan — for individual accountability that he came to the conclusion that, “on balance”, it was not the best thing to do.

He said that evidence disclosed in two reports on the matter did not amount to a breach of discipline as defined in garda regulations.

He said that to gather prima facie evidence of a breach of discipline investigators would have to trawl through 500,000 phone calls and that this process would take an “inordinate amount of time”.

He also said that there was the threat of legal proceedings — as indicated by two garda staff associations.

The commissioner added that widespread disciplinary action would be “counterproductive” and the time should be spent ensuring ethical behaviour.

However, he added that a directive was going out that made it clear that breaches of data integrity and data privacy would be serious breaches of discipline.

Ms Gray was unhappy about the commissioner’s decision, saying: “It’s sending out a dangerous message to the gardaí on the ground, that they can do anything they like. This is two million falsified breath tests we are talking about.”

She was also unhappy that the 14 chief superintendents — half of all the divisional commanders — who failed to respond to a request for a report from former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on how they were dealing with the breath test scandal were not reprimanded in any way.

“They were given a directive and they gave the two fingers and didn’t reply,” said Ms Gray. “We in Parc wanted their names, we wanted them to be identified.

“The authority meeting seems to be the end of it now. It has all been swept under the carpet. Somebody has to do something — people are outraged at breath tests and no one garda is being disciplined.” She said this was “not fair” on the good gardaí. And she claimed that gardaí had told them that further issues with breath tests recording were continuing.

Meanwhile, the Road Safety Authority declined to comment on the commissioner’s decision, saying disciplinary issues were an “internal matter” for the commissioner.

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