Williams and O’Gara linked to points row

An Independent TD last night linked two well known celebrities to the ongoing investigation into cancelled penalty points.

Dublin TD Joan Collins called for a public inquiry over the issue and said it was not just a matter of a few individuals. Speaking in the Dáil, she named Ireland rugby star Ronan O’Gara and crime journalist Paul Williams as two individuals linked to the termination of penalty points.

“What we are saying is the information that we have seen is a systematic abuse the system and malpractice,” said Ms Collins. “This is not a question of a few celebrities here like Ronan O’Gara or Paul Williams... or other judges or multiple gardaí.”

She said there was a need for a public inquiry “to out any malpractice”.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said it was “outrageous” that TDs would name people when they did not have the chance to defend themselves and when the Garda inquiry had not been completed.

Leas Ceann Comhairle Joe O’Reilly reminded Ms Collins that persons not in a position to defend themselves were generally not named in the Dáil.

“The general practice is that such persons should not be named or referred to in such a way as to make them identifiable, 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,” said Mr O’Reilly.

When contacted, Mr O’Gara said he did not wish to comment on the matter. Calls to Mr Williams were not returned.

Earlier, Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said fewer than 300 claims of inappropriately cancelled penalty points are being examined, while others points were dropped due to medical emergencies or vehicles that were mistakenly identified.

Mr Shatter said indications from an interim garda report into claims of cancelled fixed notice charges indicate they related to ordinary individuals and not VIPs, as has been claimed.

Some penalty points cancelled related to children or women in childbirth being rushed to hospitals and not actually to matters such as speeding, he told the Dáil.

However, the opposition claims that tens of thousands of appeals for cancellations had been made and that many more suspicious cancellations needed investigation.

Mr Shatter said assumptions that points terminations were illegal and that individuals with cancelled charges had received special treatment were incorrect.

There were circumstances where points were cancelled in line with existing garda guidelines, he said.

Termination of charges occurred where it was believed that evidence would not result in a prosecution or that a prosecution would not be fair or appropriate, the Dáil was told.

Senior officers signed off on canceling penalty points, said Mr Shatter: “Exemptions apply to emergency vehicles or where there are evidential difficulties such as where the registration number registered by a speed camera dos not correspond to the vehicle in question.

“There are emergency medical circumstances. For example, there’s a medical certificate relating to the wearing of seatbelts; a sick child being urgently driven to hospital; an imminent birth; a medical professional rushing to a sick or elderly patient; a driver of an ambulance response vehicle.”

Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said his party was aware of up to 50,000 appeals over penalty points.

Millions of euro of public funds may be lost from points wrongly cancelled, said Mr Mac Lochlainn.

Mr Shatter said that, between 2009 and mid-2012, 1.4m fixed charged notices were issued.

“The allegations that I have received when examined in the context of some initial work that has been done actually apply to less than 300 instances,” he said.

He urged TDs not to preempt the outcome of the final report, due in January.

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