GSOC hires help for points abuse probe

The Garda Ombudsman is hiring outside investigators to enable it complete its massive investigation into penalty points.

GSOC hires help for points abuse probe

The mammoth probe is expected to be in a position to complete an interim report as early as June.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has merged two linked investigations into allegations of penalty point abuses made by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The bulk of the probe spans the first tranche of complaints, between 2009 and 2012. It also includes a second batch of cases covering 2013 to November 2014.

The second tranche was investigated in an internal Garda probe, which was published, in part, on Tuesday. The reports of the Garda Professional Standards Unit have now gone to GSOC.

This report recommended that 114 cancellations — made by 21 serving or retired gardaí — require “further investigation in order to maintain public confidence” in the fixed-charge processing (or penalty points) system.

Alan Shatter, the former justice minister, referred the first set of complaints to GSOC in January 2014. His successor, Frances Fitzgerald, referred the second tranche to it last September.

Last May, GSOC wrote to the Department of Justice saying it needed a further €1m to hire temporary outside investigators for the first set of cancellations.

It said it “could not handle such an extensive investigation without additional resources”. The request went to the Department of Public Expenditure, which, at the end of October, sanctioned the move.

This is going through the public procurement process and GSOC hopes to have the additional staff — as many as six — by the end of March.

A GSOC spokeswoman said it is in the process of completing the first stage of the investigation, described as an “analysis stage”, which should end early next month.

She said once the extra investigators are in place, they expect to be in a position to submit an interim report to the commission within three to six months. It will then be determined if further probes are needed or if a final report can be completed.

Meanwhile, GSOC analysts are set to begin studying the two-volume report of the Garda Professional Standards Unit.

As with the first tranche, this analysis will provide a “road map” for investigators, setting out areas for priority, highlighting patterns and areas of interest.

The GSOC spokeswoman said while it would examine the 114 cases highlighted in the report, it would not restrict itself to just them.

“It would make sense that cases where evidence or patterns indicating that further investigation is particularly merited have been established would be prioritised, but that is not to say that we will not do our own independent analysis, or that the other cases will not be examined,” she said.

The GSOC investigation will determine whether it should recommend to the commissioner if any serving gardaí should face disciplinary proceedings.

If the investigation finds any evidence of criminal behaviour — either by serving or retired members — it will submit a file to the DPP.

Meanwhile, Wexford TD Mick Wallace said in the Dáil that a properly independent watchdog was needed to police the gardaí, alleging that some officers were involved in the drugs trade.

The Independent TD insisted that reforms initiated in the wake of the penalty points report did not go far enough.

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