Garda offenders ‘will be punished’

Disciplinary proceedings must be taken against gardaí who continued to cancel penalty points in breach of official policy, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said.

An internal Garda inquiry — set up following fresh allegations by garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe — last week recommended 114 cancellations by 21 current or retired gardaí required further investigation.

The two-volume reports of the Garda Professional Standards Unit probe have now gone to the Garda Ombudsman, which is conducting a massive investigation into both these allegations and previous ones made by Sgt McCabe.

GSOC’s investigation will try to determine whether any serving gardaí may have committed a disciplinary offence or if any serving or former gardaí may have committed a criminal offence.

Ms Fitzgerald said gardaí who breached official garda rules on the cancellation of penalty points “clearly have to be subject to disciplinary procedures, if that is feasible, if the members, for example, are still in the force”.

While there was no breakdown in the GPSU report, or in press briefings, regarding the breakdown of the 21 gardaí, the Irish Examiner understands up to 15 may still be serving in the force.

All but two of the 21 gardaí were involved in cancelling points before the introduction of a strict, centralised system by Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan last June.

The GPSU investigation, which involved the assistance of Sgt McCabe, made a series of recommendations, including the establishment of an enforcement unit in the national fixed charge processing office and the referral of all cancellation applications by gardaí who received points while using their private vehicles.

In addition, Ms Fitzgerald announced the establishment an independent oversight office, headed by a judge, to inspect the cancellation process.

Ms Fitzgerald noted that Sgt McCabe had told the Irish Examiner last Friday the reforms “would solve the issue”.

The whistleblower had said the various recommendations when implemented “will stop abuse of the system”.

The minister told The Sunday Show on Newstalk various garda reports — including that by the Garda Inspectorate last November —showed “clearly, cultural change” was needed among gardaí and within garda management.

Ms Fitzgerald also confirmed she was examining the possibility of scrapping the legislative ban on serving alcohol in pubs on Good Friday as part of a long-awaiting reform of licensing laws.

“It [the ban] represents a long-term social-cultural approach to the issue,” said the minister.

“The publicans are making the point from a strictly tourism/business point of view that it should be reconsidered.

“It’s certainly one of the issues I’ll be examining when finalising the Sale of Alcohol Bill, which I hope will be later this year. It’s been a long time coming around, about seven years.”

She said she was very concerned at the “huge proliferation” of the off-licence trade and the growth in licences.

She said this was never intended in the law and had “very serious implications”.

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