Probe into breath tests took ‘inordinate’ time

The Policing Authority has said that “getting to the bottom” of the breath test scandal and the homicide controversy has consumed an “inordinate” amount of its time.

In its 2017 annual report, the authority said that while it had seen “positive and excellent performance” by gardaí in communities, it had also been, “in many cases”, disappointed by what it had come across.

In her foreword, authority chairwoman Josephine Feehily said that Garda data quality came very much to the fore in 2017.

“Getting to the bottom of almost 2m breath tests that didn’t happen, and understanding the import of misclassified homicides — a matter on which we are still not satisfied — consumed an inordinate amount of authority time, more time than should have been necessary,” said Ms Feehily.

“For the record, I must again emphasise that it is the impact of poor or wrong data for crime prevention, crime investigation, public policy and Garda deployment that is the Authority’s focus.”

Ms Feehily said that, as she was writing her foreword, the minister for justice and equality had published Garda correspondence relating to the fatal shooting of Garda Tony Golden which, she said, “goes to illustrate” the point.

“Our work on data quality raised worrying governance matters, echoed in our reviews of the internal audit report into the Garda College,” said Ms Feehily.

She said that the authority had deepened its understanding of policing in Ireland in 2017 and of the way An Garda Síochána does its work.

“We have seen positive and excellent performance by gardaí who serve our citizens and communities,” she said. “We have also been, in many cases, disappointed by what we have seen.”

She said that during 2017 the authority reported quarterly to the minister on the progress of modernisation and reform in An Garda Síochána including in relation to governance, pace of implementation, prioritisation to direct resources to critical areas, managerial, HR, and ICT capacity.

“Unfortunately, we have not always been able to be positive in these reports,” she said.

Ms Feehily said a lot of time in 2017 was spent running the process of appointments to ranks of superintendent, chief superintendent, and assistant commissioner. A total of 31 candidates were appointed: Four to assistant commissioner, eight to chief superintendent and 19 to superintendent.

The report details attendance of and payments to the chair and eight ordinary members of the authority.

Apart from one member who left, the remaining members attended the vast bulk or all of the authority meetings.

It said Ms Feehily received an annual fee of €64,900, with expenses of €2,000. The remaining members received almost €15,000, with Judith Gillespie also receiving €6,200 in expenses.

The salary of the chief secretary, Helen Hall, in 2017 was around €134,500 on the salary scale for assistant secretary in the civil service.

Of the 31 applicants for assistant commissioner, 27 were male and four were female. All 31 were gardaí. Of the 79 applicants for chief superintendent, 71 were male and eight were female. Some 77 were gardaí and two were from the PSNI. Of the 96 applicants for superintendent, 83 were male and 13 were female. Some 90 were gardaí and six were PSNI officers.


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