Issues of credibility regarding the Penalty Points Reports.

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Last night Clare Daly T.D highlighted issues surrounding the credibility of the report into allegations of malpractice relating to penalty point terminations.  This was in stark contrast to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s view that the report would ensure “the maximum transparency possible” regarding “any investigation into allegations made”.

Firstly it would seem that the nature of this report was flawed from the very beginning. Can transparency really be perceived when as Clare Daly noted, it was “the very same Gardai who were accused of this malpractice who adjudicated and investigated themselves?” If Minister Shatter was committed to some notion of transparency then clearly he would have referred the allegations to the Garda Ombudsman Commission, a body designed for the very purpose of investigating such issues of misconduct and malpractice in An Garda Siochana.

Perhaps more surprising was the fact that neither of the two whistle-blowers concerned with the allegations were ever consulted in relation to the report. That the two Gardai presenting these allegations would not even be questioned raises serious concerns as to the content and credibility of this report. Was their evidence not deemed worthy of consideration?

The report itself is quick to try and substantiate the Garda Commissioners previous assertion that there would be no revelations of a quashing culture in relation to penalty points. Yet Clare noted in the Dail yesterday that under the report’s limited terms of reference, “40% of the terminations were improper or the subject of disciplinary investigations” and that such a result was “hardly a vindication”. The report is also quick to discredit the whistle-blowers very serious allegations regarding road fatalities. The report’s assertions may very well be true. It would be crude to suggest otherwise but then throughout the document we are not shown any supplementary evidence particularly in relation to cases of Road fatalities and Public Figures.

Let us consider one example for a moment. The report makes reference to a Print Journalist. It then explains “This Journalist had two FCN’s (Fixed Charge Notices) terminated over a ten month period in 2011. Both FCN’s were terminated on foot of petitions received. This examination has found both terminations were conducted within policy and procedure” These may well be the facts of the case but can the public have complete confidence without any supplementary evidence such as the written petitions? Would “maximum transparency” not call for this evidence?

The reality would seem that Minister Shatter is selective when it comes to the notion of transparency. “Maximum Transparency” is fine for Minister Shatter when it comes to revealing personal data on a political opponent while attempting to undermine them. However in relation to the report it would seem that the Minister’s notions of “maximum transparency” remain unfulfilled. In fact the report seems to unravel more questions than before. In reality only a comprehensive and independent inquiry will ever suffice with such issues.