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Abuse of penalty points system ‘cost State millions’

A Dáil committee has come into possession of information that suggests further widespread abuse of the penalty points system which may have cost the State millions of euro.

The Public Accounts Committee is receiving legal advice on whether "a box of evidence" can be used in hearings which will focus on how much money has been lost by the State through a failure to properly implement the system.

The committee has scheduled hearings for Jan 23, when Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan is due to give evidence — and it now looks likely that at least one Garda whistleblower will also give evidence on that day.

Last month, the Comptroller and Auditor General reported that one in five motorists caught for fixed-charge notices managed to evade fines.

The C&AG report outlined more widespread abuse of the system than was uncovered in an internal Garda investigation last May. The probe was on foot of allegations made in the Dáil from Independent TD Clare Daly relating to widespread abuse of the system.

The information now in possession of the PAC is understood to not have been available to the C&AG’s office for its investigation, or to the Garda investigation.

The chairman of the PAC, John McGuinness, says he met with one of the whistleblowers and was handed a box of files that had not previously been examined.

"He [the whistleblower] wrote to the committee and said that Alan Shatter had said he wasn’t accurate in his account on the matter and he said that he was and would present evidence," said Mr McGuinness.

"I met him and received a box of files which apparently show that millions has been lost through the operation of the system.

"He told me that he wants to go before the committee to give evidence and I’m in favour of that but it has to be ratified by the committee."

Mr McGuinness said the hearings have been delayed because the committee has had to seek legal advice on whether the files can be examined by the PAC.

He said the evidence appears credible, with cover sheets for files and details, particularly in relation to repeat offenders walking free, as well as those with connections in the force.

"He’s taken cases of, for example, three people in a family who had points deleted and cases where a garda had them deleted on the basis that he was working, but the records show that he was on sick leave at the time," said Mr McGuinness

Last Tuesday in the Dáil, Sinn Féin justice spokesman Pádraig MacLochlainn called for an independent inquiry into the management of the penalty points system.

"There are ongoing reports in the media about judges, a state solicitor and senior journalists who allegedly had penalty points terminated," said Mr MacLochlainn.

Mr Shatter rejected the calls and suggested that Mr MacLochlainn raise the matter with the committee on justice.