The mass falsification of Garda breath tests was about “feeding the beast” and submitting figures rather than about detecting or preventing drink-drivers.
A report by the Policing Authority found it “would not be unreasonable” to assume gardaí exaggerated the number of fake breath tests by an extra 400,000 or more.
“However, the precise extent of the discrepancy will probably never be known, and in any case the core issue is the fact that such a large discrepancy occurred and developed over a lengthy period before it was noticed,” states the report.
It says the prevailing culture within the force was a “key driver” that enabled “unethical behaviour” by Garda members who falsified checkpoint data.
It also highlights the practice of reporting estimated, rounded-up figures for breath tests where “accuracy in such detail was not considered important at any level in the organisation”.
“Ultimately, there were no effective governance processes in place within the Garda Síochána to verify that the information being entered onto PULSE in respect of MIT checkpoints, and by extension the number of breath tests performed at these checkpoints, was correct.”
The report found that, given the errors occurred over a period of more than 10 years, it was “surprising” the problem was not identified earlier.
The Policing Authority expresses concern that nobody within the force thought the figures were “too good to be true” when it was clear the statistics were rising at a time when resources were being cut.
“We have a concern that the national-level statistics continued to rise at a time when human resources were being cut, when overtime budgets were being squeezed, and when frontline supervision was reducing — yet no one at senior management level seemed to say ‘this appears to be too good to be true’,” says the report.
The view was contrasted with that of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) which expressed concern that the over-reporting of breath tests may have determined or influenced the allocation of Garda resourcing away from roads policing.
“The RSA is of the view that this negatively impacted on the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on Irish roads. Importantly, the recent research conducted by the RSA where alcohol was a contributory factor in fatal collisions was in stark contrast with the attitude towards the reporting of breath tests,” says the report.
The Policing Authority says there did not appear to be any strong sense of accountability within the force with respect to the submission of correct data from breath tests. The focus was on inflating figures to show improved performance.
“The need to consistently present data showing improving MIT performance seems to have become the overriding necessity across the organisation, with members less focused on the need for accuracy and some deliberately entering incorrect data to make performance look better, or to ensure that they did not get into trouble for not performing the number of checkpoints which had been authorised.”
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