Updated: 04/12/17 : 06:43:51
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Hundreds of gardaí escape disciplinary action over penalty points abuse

Hundreds of gardaí who abused the penalty points system will escape disciplinary action after the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) said it would be too expensive and too difficult to pursue them.

A report published by Gsoc provided further evidence of the widespread abuse by gardaí of the penalty points system in recent years.

Independent.ie reported that this included gardaí hiding their involvement in the cancellation of penalty points by logging into the Garda computer system using the credentials of retired ex-colleagues.

However, the report indicated the further investigation of individual cases was "very unlikely" as it would be difficult to progress disciplinary proceedings due to a lack of supporting documentation.

The report said further investigation of cases going back eight years was "unlikely to provide positive outcomes".

It said even the cheapest estimate for the cost of a further probe was well above €1m and the commission believed this "would not be the best use of public money".

The report followed a three-and-a-half-year investigation examining the period between 2009 and 2014. It found that too many members of An Garda Síochána were authorised to cancel fixed charge notices - a total of 442 in the four years.

Cancellations were also carried out by superintendents and inspectors for fixed charge notices outside their geographical area, contrary to policy.

The report found one officer based in Dublin cancelled 744 fixed charge notices across 17 counties, while 46,161 notices were cancelled by a garda working in the Fixed Charge Processing Office.

Some 72pc of all cancelled fixed charge notices were simply recorded as "cancelled", giving insufficient rationale for cancellation to allow Gsoc to ascertain whether this was done in line with proper procedure.

Investigators found that the credentials of retired authorising members, senior gardaí who were authorised to cancel fixed charge notices, were used to make cancellations.

The report said the fact this could have been done illustrated "serious accountability issues with the system".

Gardaí confirmed to the commission that there was no documentation available to provide clarification of the cancellations that had been processed using the credentials of retired officers.

The probe was ordered by then-justice minister Alan Shatter in 2014 after allegations made by whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe came into the public domain.

Gsoc investigators received data relating to the issuing of 1.6 million fixed charge notices and 74,373 cancellations of fixed charge notices in the years 2009 to 2012.

The report said Gsoc was satisfied the allegations put forward by Sgt McCabe had considerable merit.

The force's cancellation policy has since been changed and authorisation to cancel penalty points is now restricted to a small number of officers.