Garda faces major ‘Patten-style’ review over scandals

Police in the Republic of Ireland face an unprecedented “root-and-branch review” over a string of scandals that could lead to the national force being completely overhauled.

Apr 4, 2017
Iain Packer

Justice and Equality minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed a Commission of the Future of Policing in Ireland will be launched in response to plummeting confidence in An Garda Síochána.

The results could spell major changes for the Garda as Ms Fitzgerald likened the review to the Patten Commission, which led to the replacement of the Royal Ulster Constabulary with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The announcement comes after an audit revealed that police claimed to have conducted almost a million more breathalyser tests between 2012 and 2016 than they actually had.

Ms Fitzgerald was unable to provide details of the commission’s terms of reference as the Irish government plans to draft them with opposition parties and relevant statutory bodies.

However, she said the review will look at the Garda’s structures and management arrangements, and its culture and ethos.

The breathalyser discrepancy was discovered after the Medical Bureau of Road Safety noticed that while it had recorded 1.06 million tests over the period, the Garda had recorded 1.99 million.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn could not say whether officers had been making up figures, but confirmed: “Certainly they weren’t recording them correctly.”

The force has also admitted that problems with its fixed penalty system led to 146,000 people being wrongly taken before the courts – and 14,700 falsely convicted.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan is due before the Policing Authority before the end of the week to explain her handling of the scandal.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has called for her to step down, claiming anyone who thinks things will change under Ms O’Sullivan’s leadership is “living in cloud cuckoo land”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the revelations about An Garda Síochána were “unacceptable”.

He added: “The Government believes that the level of public concern is now so profound that it’s now time to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and independent, root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána.”

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