Senior gardaí are coming under pressure to explain the exact scope of the investigation into the recording of fake breath tests after it emerged the Road Safety Authority (RSA) had expressed concerns that a case of one garda breathalysing himself to boost figures was not part of the probe, writes Noel Baker.
Correspondence between the chief executive of the RSA, Moyah Murdoch, and Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan, who is leading the probe, shows Ms Doherty stating she felt one documented case of a garda allegedly using a breathalyser on himself in order to produce false results could possibly be symptomatic of widespread practice, and that this should form part of the investigation by senior gardaí into the fake tests.
The documentation, seen by RTÉ’s This Week programme under Freedom of Information, thrust renewed focus on the scope of the garda investigation into 939,000 false breath tests.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said there needed to be clarity as to whether the RSA’s viewpoint as to the scope of the Garda probe was being taken on board.
Gardaí were first made aware of the false breath tests issue in April 2014 when anonymous correspondence received at the RSA was then sent to the Minister for Transport.
It later emerged there was “a significant deficit” between data recorded on the Pulse System for Roadside Breath tests versus the number of breath test recorded on the apparatus used by the Medical Bureau for Road Safety.
The Garda Síochána Pulse Data showed 1,995,369 tests, compared with the Medical Bureau of Road Safety Data showing 1,058,157 tests.
Back in March, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan announced that Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan would look at whether the issues identified were the result of individual or system failings.
However, in the correspondence between the RSA and Mr O’Sullivan last April, Ms Murdoch said a whistleblower had come to her claiming to have seen a Garda performing breathalyser tests on himself to falsify test figures. She told the assistant commissioner the whistleblower alleged a garda told her “they all did it”.
In response, the assistant commissioner said he “had taken note of the actions of the garda in terms of our overall examination in so far as it comes within our terms of reference” and that it was being dealt with by the Human Resources Directorate and local Garda management.
However, he pointed out that his investigation was into the “policy and procedure” for recording breath tests, and it was “not an investigation in the sense that any one individual is being investigated, but that could be a consequence of my final report”.
Ms Murdoch then wrote back to say that she still concerned that the matter was being dealt with by Garda HR and local management rather than by the team investigating false breath tests, and that it should be part of the central probe into the fake breath tests.
Mr O’Callaghan, speaking one This Week, agreed that the case should be pursued to see if it was indicative of wider practice.
“I think we need to see the [Garda] report, this saga has gone on for too long,” he said.
“If the report comes out and it’s vague it is going to highlight that this particular line of inquiry should have been pursued.”
The Garda Press Office has yet to respond.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.