Varad­kar calls for breath-test sanc­tions

Not enough gar­daí have em­braced need for change, says Taoiseach ‘Any­one in­volved in fal­si­fy­ing breath tests’ should be held ac­count­able

The Irish Times - - Home News - CONOR LALLY and SARAH BARDON Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter

Any mem­bers of the Garda in­volved in in­flat­ing checks for drink-driv­ers, in­clud­ing se­nior of­fi­cers, should face ac­tion, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said yes­ter­day.

The Taoiseach be­lieved not enough mem­bers of the force ac­cepted the Garda had to change.

“I’m not sat­is­fied there’s been enough peo­ple within the gar­daí who have em­braced the need for change and re­form,” Mr Varad­kar said.

He said he had seen the re­marks of the Garda Rep­re­sen­ta­tive As­so­ci­a­tion (GRA) which claimed se­nior gar­daí, and not its rank-and-file mem­bers, were to blame for the in­flat­ing of al­co­hol breath tests.

Mr Varad­kar took a hard line when asked what should be done about the Garda mem­bers who en­tered 1½ mil­lion breath tests on the force’s of­fi­cial en­force­ment records.

“I do be­lieve there should be in­di­vid­ual ac­count­abil­ity, you know, for any­one who was in­volved in fal­si­fy­ing breath tests.

“And not just at the level of in­di­vid­ual rank-and-file gar­daí, but of course if there were peo­ple at man­age­ment level who were de­mand­ing this of peo­ple who re­port to them.”

Chief su­per­in­ten­dents have al­ready been asked to ex­am­ine the source of the in­flat­ing in di­vi­sions around the State.

How­ever, the Garda has said that, be­fore any fur­ther ac­tions were taken, re­ports on the in­flat­ing of the breath tests be­ing pre­pared for the Polic­ing Au­thor­ity needed to be pub­lished.

Wrong­ful con­vic­tion

Con­sul­tants Crowe Hor­wath are pre­par­ing two re­ports for the au­thor­ity; one on the in­flated breath tests and one on the wrong­ful con­vic­tion of about 15,000 mo­torists un­der the mo­tor­ing fixed-charge no­tice sys­tem.

On Thurs­day af­ter its two-day na­tional ex­ec­u­tive meet­ing the GRA clashed with As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Michael O’Sul­li­van, the au­thor of the re­cently pub­lished Garda re­port on the breath tests.

He said se­nior of­fi­cers did not gain from the fact the lev­els of test­ing in their ar­eas of re­spon­si­bil­ity were in­flated. This was as much as 400 per cent in some places and for years.

But the GRA said the se­nior of­fi­cers pres­surised those work­ing un­der them to in­flate the fig­ures. It also said the se­nior of­fi­cers used the in­flated level of test­ing to try and se­cure pro­mo­tion.

Mr Varad­kar said the as­so­ci­a­tion now seems to have re­jected the con­clu­sions of the O’Sul­li­van re­port. “I have to say I am dis­ap­pointed with them,” he added.

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