Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has demanded the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee hand over a “box of evidence” provided by a whistleblower alleging widespread abuse of the penalty points system.
Mr Callinan wrote to the chairman of the committee, John McGuinness, after a report in the Irish Examiner two weeks ago that he had received a volume of documentation which could shine the light on millions of euro being lost to the State by a failure to properly implement the system.
“I am of the view that these files, containing personal data, are files which I am responsible for and accordingly should be returned forthwith to me,” said Mr Callinan.
The fresh batch of information now in the possession of the PAC is understood not to have been available to the Comptroller and Auditor General in a report that outlined how one-in-five motorists caught for fixed-charge notices managed to evade fines.
It’s also believed to be additional to the information made available to Independent TD Clare Daly, whose allegations made in the Dáil on abuse of the system resulted in an internal Garda investigation on the issue.
On Nov 9, the Irish Examiner reported that Mr McGuinness met a whistle- blower and was handed a box of files that had not previously been examined.
In his letter to the PAC chairman, Mr Callinan said: “Unfortunately, I am not in a position at this juncture to identify whether the person who has furnished this information to you is an employee of mine or not.
“I can confirm that my prior authority was not obtained before this data was furnished to you.”
Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes wrote to Mr McGuinness on Tuesday saying a crime may have been committed by the leaking of the information, and that he supported Mr Callinan in his efforts to retrieve the files.
He said he received a letter from the Garda commissioner on Nov 15 — last Friday — notifying him of a potential breach of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003.
“If, as is alleged, personal data has been removed from An Garda Síochána without the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner, and if that personal data has been passed on to you, a third party, the Garda Commissioner is correct in reporting to me that the Data Protection Acts have been breached,” he said.
He said that in light of the “serious issues which arise” from the alleged breach of data protection laws: “I would urge you to ensure that the personal data concerned, if any, is returned safely and without delay to the Garda commissioner.”
Mr Hawkes said he acknowledged the important work done by the committee but he has a duty to act on alleged breaches of the law: “For that reason, I must support the Garda commissioner’s efforts to retrieve all personal data which was removed from An Garda Síochána without his authorisation. I trust that you will co-operate with the Garda commiss-ioner in that regard.”
The committee has scheduled hearings for Jan 23, when Mr Callinan is due to give evidence.
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