Penalty points and the management of the fixed charge notice system will be on the agenda of the Committee of Public Accounts tomorrow, Thursday, 23rd January 2014 when it meets with Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
Chairman of the Committee John McGuinness said: “Discretion plays an important role in how a Garda discharges their functions when determining if someone will be subject to a penalty but how that discretion can be applied in a consistent and fair way is a key question in any discussion surrounding the penalty points system. The C&AG found evidence that not only are cases not being terminated consistently but that a significant number of cases reviewed appeared to have been terminated in circumstances outside of the stated policy. Overall, the C&AG found the rate of terminations for 2011 and 2012 to be 5% and that up to 1 in 5 traffic offenders avoid penalties. The C&AG also found that absent and inadequate records give rise to concerns that many cases have been terminated without due cause. These are clearly serious and worrying findings.
“The key objective of the fixed charge notice system is to reduce road casualties while contributing to safer driving. If there is a perception by the pubic of arbitrary or partial application of the system, then there is a possibility that the deterrence objectives of the system could be undermined as well as general public confidence in An Garda Síochána. When fixed charge notices are cancelled, there is also a loss of income to the Exchequer.
“The C&AG reported on the system of controls in relation to the fixed charge notice system and its predecessor ‘fine on the spot’ system three times in the last number of years. The Committee would like to know why these reports did not result in sufficiently improved controls within An Garda Síochána. A new policy in relation to the cancellation of fixed charge notices was issued to the entire force on 30 August 2013. Among the issues the Committee would like to address tomorrow are: What evidence is available that the new procedures and policy has been applied? Has any analysis been conducted yet to see if there has been a reduction in the rate of terminations? What is the current status of the Garda Inspectorate report examining the area of fixed change notices and when is the report due to be published? Will this be the final report on the area of fixed change notices? The Committee would also like to determine how we ensure this does not happen again and that discretion is used properly and not outside what the Commissioner would deem appropriate.”
This meeting will start in Committee Room 1 at 10am on Thursday, 23rd January 2014.
Committee proceedings can be followed live here at: http://www.oireachtas.ie/