Gardaí fail to serve 39% of summonses

A Garda whistle-blower has called for an independent inquiry into the non-serving of court summonses by gardaí after figures showed that almost 650,000 summonses were not served on alleged offenders over the past four years.

Figures supplied by the Courts Service show that 646,509 summonses were not served between 2009 and 2012.

It represents 39% of almost 1.7m summonses issued by the Courts Service over the period.

Sinn Féin’s justice spokes- man Pádraig MacLochlainn urged Alan Shatter, the justice minister, to explain the scale of the problem.

“These figures make startling reading. This will be a matter of real public concern,” said the Donegal TD.

The figures were provided by the Courts Service to a retired garda, John Wilson, who was one of two officers who acted as whistle-blowers in the controversy over gardaí scrapping penalty points earlier this year.

Mr Wilson, who retired in May, said the figures highlighted a system where summonses to appear in court were deliberately not being served by gardaí.

He said he was aware of cases where TDs, as well as members of the judiciary and legal profession, had benefited from summonses not being served on them.

Mr Wilson also claimed hundreds of gardaí had also had never been served with summonses that had been issued by the Courts Service.

The vast majority of summonses not served are understood to relate to road traffic offences.

Mr Wilson said the non- serving of summonses also represented a major loss of revenue to the State. He estimated that the issue could have cost the exchequer about €100m over the past four years in non-payment of fines.

“The system is rotten. It’s another scandal similar to the scrapping of penalty points. There is no lawful excuse for the non-serving of summonses in most cases.”

From his personal experience, Mr Wilson said members of the force were always receiving calls in relation to summons from the public. He also claimed that the non-serving of summonses used to be a disciplinary measure for gardaí.

Mr Shatter’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment last night.

Earlier this week, the Irish Examiner revealed tension between Mr Shatter and the chairman of the Road Safety Authority, Gay Byrne, over the latter’s criticism of Garda enforcement levels of road traffic legislation.

Mr Shatter said comments by the veteran broadcaster could be viewed as questioning his personal commitment to road safety, as the RSA chairman warned road fatalities were set to rise due to lower visibility of gardaí on Irish roads.

The latest figures also indicate the overall number of summonses being issued by the Courts Service has fallen by 31% over the past four years — down from 493,635 in 2009 to 341,320 last year — a further indication of a decrease in Garda enforcement levels.


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