No gardaí will face disciplinary action in relation to falsification of breath test data, the acting Garda commissioner said yesterday.
Addressing a public meeting of the Policing Authority, Dónall Ó Cualáin said the organisation “unreservedly” apologised for the unacceptable behavioural and governance failures.
He said while there were “understandable” calls [not least by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan] for individual accountability, the commissioner said he took a balanced decision not to, for a range of factors, including:
- The evidence disclosed in two reports into breath tests did not reach the level of breach of discipline as outlined in Garda regulations;
- That an examination to gather prima facie evidence to decide if disciplinary action should be taken would take “an inordinate amount of time”;
- That there was the possibility of legal challenges;
- That such action would be “counterproductive” and that the time now should be spent in a productive way by ensuring ethical behaviour.
“Proceeding with a disciplinary approach would commence a protracted, costly and legally complex disciplinary process,” said Mr Ó Cualáin.
He noted that the Crowe Horwath review, commissioned by the Policing Authority, had recommended a “forward facing approach” rather than lengthy examinations into the past.
Authority chairwoman Josephine Feehily said earlier this month that she expected the commissioner to outline his plans regarding possible disciplinary action, while both the Taoiseach and the Justice Minister said they expected disciplinary action to the taken.
Mr Ó Cualáin said: “In order to establish prima facie case you need the evidence. To get the evidence you have to go back into that database which will give you the prima facia evidence that you would need.”
He said this meant such a procedure would take “an inordinate amount of time”.
The Crowe Horwath report said there was a combination of individual, organisational, and cultural factors that contributed to the inflation — almost 1m over an eight-year period.
Ms Feehily had also said she wanted to see what steps the commissioner was taking on the “deeply concerning” failure of the majority of his divisional commanders to report to his predecessor on their efforts to address inflated breath tests.
Authority member Maureen Lynott asked why the commissioner was not focusing on the chief superintendents of the 28 divisions, particularly those with the “most flagrant false recording” and hold them “to account”.
The commissioner said that he would be meeting with all chief superintendents and other senior managers over the next six months and would be “honing” in on how they dealt with the problem.
Ms Feehily said that the authority understood his approach to disciplinary action but said she was not saying they agreed with it.