Garda breath test numbers in Cork inflated by 133%

Garda breath test numbers in Cork inflated by 133%

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey, Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan, and Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn pictured at Garda Headquarters updating media on the issues discovered with administration of fixed charge notices and roadside breath-tests. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

THE number of breath tests undertaken in the Cork city garda division was inflated by 133%, according to the head of roads policing.

Assistant commissioner Michael Finn revealed the figure to the justice committee yesterday. 

He was asked by Independent4Change TD Mick Wallace for the figure relating to Cork, as Assistant Commissioner Finn had served as Chief Superintendent in the division before being promoted late last year.

He told the committee that he never suspected the figure might not be accurate.

He was joined at yesterday’s meeting by Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, Deputy Commissioner Donal O’Cualain and Deputy Commissioner John Twomey. 

The meeting followed the revelation last week that the number of breath tests carried out between 2011 and 2016 had been exaggerated by close to one million, while 14,700 motorists had been convicted for offences for which they should have received fixed charge notices instead of a court summons.

In her opening statement to the committee, Commissioner O’Sullivan said: “On behalf of An Garda Síochána, I sincerely apologise for the grave mistakes and wrongdoing during the last decade that have led to the two controversies we are here today to discuss.” 

She added: "Those mistakes and wrongdoings are unacceptable in policing terms, unacceptable in ethical terms, unacceptable in terms of public trust, and, most critically, unacceptable to the advocacy and support groups involved in road safety and to those who were wrongly brought to court."

And in relation to the breath tests figures, she said: “At worst, it was deception. At best, it was incompetence.” 

One advocate for road safety, Christina Donnelly, said the controversy is an insult to people who have campaigned for road safety, as well as to families who have had loved ones killed or badly injured in accidents.

She said: “It makes me very angry and sad.” 

The Waterford mum lost her son Brendan in a car crash at Castlemartyr in October 2009.

His friend Lee Salkeld also died in the crash.

Along with their partners, they had been travelling to Cork Airport to go on holidays.

A man has been sentenced to five years and disqualified from driving for 15 years as a result of the crash.

He had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths of the two young men. He fled the scene and walked six miles on a back road to his home before being arrested.

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