Government proposes ‘root-and-branch’ Garda review after wrongful conviction revelations

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

A “root-and-branch review” of An Garda Síochána is necessary in the wake of revelations about wrongful convictions in the District Court, the Government has said.

The announcement comes after confirmation that around 14,700 people were wrongly convicted in the District Court because fixed charge notices were not correctly applied.

Some 146,865 court summons have been sent out in error since 2006 to drivers who already paid a fine under the fixed charge notice system, and convictions were secured in around 14,700 of those cases.

It also emerged that there is a massive discrepancy of nearly one million in the reported and actual numbers of drink driving breath tests conducted by gardaí between 2011-16.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, making a statement to the Dáil last night, said the Department of Justice learned about both issues last June but was not aware of the scale of the problems.

She said: “I became aware of the figure of some 14,700 cases where a conviction took place after an incorrect procedure when An Garda Síochána made that information public last week.

“And I want to say that it is matter of great regret to me that anyone should be summonsed to court incorrectly, with all of the consequences that follow for individuals.”

She said the Government now backs “a thorough, comprehensive and independent root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána”.

Ms Fitzgerald continued: “As the Taoiseach said, any such proposal should command widespread support in the Oireachtas and accordingly be the subject of consultation with the Opposition, and ultimately approval by the Oireachtas.

“We in Government accept that change is required – as Minister for Justice I have introduced the most significant reforms in policing since the foundation of the State, including the establishment of a Policing Authority, additional powers for Gsoc and greater civilianisation. But we need to do more. I hope that opposition deputies will accept the offer to work with the Government on this, and contribute to achieving the policing service we all wish to see.”