Vote 20: An Garda Síochána

Mr. Martin Callinan (Commissioner, An Garda Síochána) called and examined.

I remind witnesses, members and those in the Visitors Gallery to switch off their mobile telephones as they interfere with the sound quality of the transmission of the meeting.

I advise witnesses that they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. If they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against a Member of either House, a person outside the House or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members of the provision within Standing Order 163 that the committee should refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister of the Government or the merits or the objectives of such policy or policies.

I welcome Mr. Martin Callinan, Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, and ask him to introduce his officials.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I am accompanied by Mr. Michael Culhane, director of finance and services, Deputy Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan, who is in charge of operations, Mr. Cyril Dunne, newly appointed chief administrative officer, Assistant Commissioner Gerard Phillips, who is in charge of the traffic department, and Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid. I am also joined by my public relations officer.

I welcome officials from the Departments of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Public Expenditure and Reform and Transport, Tourism and Sport and ask them to introduce themselves.

Mr. Donal Enright

I am a principal officer in the local government policy and motor taxation section of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Mr. Ronan Gallagher

I am a principal officer in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Mr. Gerry O'Malley

I am a principal officer in the national vehicle driver service of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

I ask Mr. McCarthy to introduce the accounts.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The committee is examining the 2011 Appropriation Account for the Garda Síochána Vote. The Appropriation Account records gross expenditure of €1.57 billion in 2011. Payroll costs and pensions accounted for 86% of expenditure. At the end of the year, 13,900 Garda members and more than 2,000 full-time equivalent civilian staff were employed. This results in a ratio of one civilian for every seven sworn members.

Total payroll costs consisted of slightly more than €1 billion, including €214 million on allowances and €81 million on overtime. The pay outturn for the year was marginally up on the 2010 level, despite the number of staff reducing by approximately 500 year on year. Pension payments to retired members of the force in 2011 were more than €307 million. Spending on pension payments was €61 million lower than originally budgeted because of reduced rates payable to existing pensioners and fewer retirements during 2011 than had been anticipated.

Supplementary Estimate adjustments were made to all of the Vote subheads in 2011. The largest increase was an extra €52 million provided for spending on salaries, wages and allowances. A factor in the increase was additional pay expenditure of €28 million incurred in connection with the State visits of Queen Elizabeth and President Obama.

Another spending area where there was a substantial supplementary provision in 2011 was subhead E, communications and other equipment. The account records a 41% increase in spending compared to 2010, mainly as a result of the outsourcing of road safety speed cameras in November 2010. This additional expenditure on the Vote was offset by a new category of appropriations-in-aid, namely, receipts of fixed charge penalties. In the past, the full receipts of fixed charge penalty payments collected by An Garda Síochána were paid directly to the Central Fund. In 2011, the overall receipts amounted to €23.3 million, of which €10.6 million was retained in the Vote as appropriations-in-aid and the balance of €12.7 million was paid into the Central Fund.

The committee is also considering Chapter 26 which reviews the systems in place for collecting motor tax and monitoring and deterring evasion of the tax. As previously discussed, a number of bodies play a role in the collection, administration and enforcement of motor tax. The committee has already examined the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on its role, which is mainly concerned with maintaining the register of vehicles and the collection of motor tax paid online. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has responsibility for motor tax policy and the local government fund, into which the proceeds of the tax are paid.

The Garda Síochána’s responsibility is to enforce the requirement that vehicles publicly in use have and display a current motor tax disc. The main focus of Garda activities in respect of motor tax is to detect cases of failure to display a current disc, levy fixed charge penalties and collect the payments and initiate prosecutions where these charges are not paid on time. In addition, where a vehicle owner wishes to declare that his or her vehicle was off the road for a period and, therefore, not liable to motor tax, a member of an Garda Síochána must witness the declaration. The Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Bill 2013, currently before the Oireachtas, proposes changing to a system whereby such off-the-road declarations are made in advance, rather than the current retrospective declaration.

The examination found evidence that around 5% of randomly sampled vehicles on the road in 2010 and 2011 did not have a current motor tax disc. Based on the estimated number of vehicles in use nationally, this suggests that approximately 125,000 vehicles on public roads are untaxed. The motor tax revenue foregone is estimated at approximately €50 million. This figure excludes cases where the tax disc is less than a month out of date, which is an allowed grace period.

The examination included an analysis of approximately 240,000 fixed charge notices issued between 2008 and 2011. In some cases, multiple penalty notices had been issued to vehicle owners. The total number of vehicles involved was 185,000. We found that around 40% of fixed penalty charges had not been paid. We also found that motor tax had not been paid in respect of some 40,000 vehicles between the date the fixed penalty notice was issued and April 2012. Of those that had paid tax after the fixed penalty notice issued, 35,000 had made false declarations – in the presence of a Garda witness – that the vehicle was not in use at the time the notice was issued.

In summary, the results of our analysis are that the fixed penalty notice system has not resulted in changed behaviour in respect of motor tax compliance in a significant number of cases. The integrity of the off the road declaration system is also seriously undermined when registered vehicle owners, in front of a Garda witness, declare that their vehicle was off the road at a time when it was observed in a public place by another member of the force. The report, therefore, recommends a formal review of the effectiveness of fixed penalty notices as a deterrent and for better procedures to be devised to ensure the tax is paid when non-compliant owners are detected.

Thank you, Mr. McCarthy. I ask Mr. Callinan to make his opening statement.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I thank the committee for the opportunity to appear before it again in my capacity as Accounting Officer for the Garda Vote. I look forward to discussing any aspect of the Vote with members.

I will describe the resources available to me in policing this country. The strength of An Garda Síochána as of 30 April 2013 was 13,330 sworn members, inclusive of all ranks. In total, since 31 December 2009, 1,218 gardaí of all ranks have retired or left the organisation. On 30 April 2013, there were 2,052 full-time equivalent civilian staff employed in An Garda Síochána, with a ratio of civilian to sworn members of 1: 6.5. While An Garda Síochána remains committed to attaining a lower ratio, this is influenced by the current public sector recruitment moratorium.

It must also be borne in mind that An Garda Síochána performs security, intelligence and immigration functions that are not performed by many of our comparator police organisations. These additional mandates have an impact on the garda-to-civilian ratio.

Following implementation of a district and station rationalisation programme in 2012 and 2013, the structure of An Garda Síochána will comprise a central headquarters, national support units and geographical operational units organised in six regions, 29 divisions, 105 districts and 566 sub-districts.

An Garda Síochána had much success operationally and organisationally throughout 2012, with decreases in many categories of crime, including reductions, once again, in the numbers of road fatalities and public order incidents. While 2012 was a challenging year in terms of property crime, we saw a downward trend in the later half of the year, which has continued to date in 2013.

The 2013 budget for the Garda Vote amounts to €1.272 billion, which is a reduction of 4.5% when compared to the final outturn for 2012 of €1.333 billion. The rapid decline in the public finances in recent years requires us all to do more with less and An Garda Síochána is not immune from the effects of the downturn in the public finances and we continue to play our part in the nation’s economic recovery.

A new strategy statement for the three year period 2013 to 2015 has been published which builds on the achievements of the previous three year strategy statement and takes cognisance of the financial realities ahead, while delivering the necessary financial savings and efficiencies so as to enhance the policing service we provide for members of the public. The efficient use of resources in the delivery of a professional policing service has been highlighted in the annual Garda policing plan for 2013. An Garda Síochána has achieved significant efficiencies in recent times and is undergoing significant organisational development with a number of major change initiatives under way, including a new roster system, the first in almost 40 years in An Garda Síochána, and the new performance and accountability system, PALF.

In conjunction with these achievements, An Garda Síochána also has a significant organisational development and change programme in operation encompassing my commitments towards the Croke Park agreement, the integrated reform delivery plan, IRDP, and the GRACE programme. This programme has 39 projects either completed or in progress in areas such as a new service delivery model, district and station rationalisation, workforce realignment and an examination of specialisation in the organisation, among others.

Turning to chapter 26 in the 2011 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the collection of motor taxation, the role of An Garda Síochána in the administration of motor taxation is to enforce the legal requirement for a vehicle in use to be taxed and display a valid motor tax disc. An Garda Síochána issues and processes the fixed charge notices in cases of failure to display a current motor tax disc and instigates prosecutions where fixed charges are unpaid. Motor tax disc display checks are carried out by members of An Garda Síochána during routine operational activities and checkpoints. A total of 58,075 fixed charge notices relating to tax and registration offences were issued in 2012. This compared to a figure of 65,863 in 2011, a reduction of 7,788, or 12%. In addition, An Garda Síochána can detain vehicles under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994, as amended by section 19 of the Road Traffic Act 2006, where, inter alia, there is no road tax in force for a period of two months or greater. Regarding a declaration of non-use, the role of members of An Garda Síochána is to witness the signed declaration of non-use by the vehicle owner. I fully support the measures included in the Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Bill 2013 whereby off-road declarations will be required to be made prospectively.

I thank the Chairman for giving me the opportunity to address the committee. I will answer whatever questions the Chairman and members may have.

I thank Mr. Callinan. May we publish his statement?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes.

I welcome the Commissioner and his colleagues. I wish to start with the penalty points issue which has been raised recently. I am sure other members will also wish to make reference to it. As of now, I understand three gardaí face disciplinary proceedings over the quashing of penalty points, that is, three out of the 113 officers involved. The assistant commissioner has found no evidence of criminality, corruption, deception or falsification and that an average of 10,702 notices were terminated every year by gardaí employing discretionary power. He has found that notices were terminated for a good reason in many cases but for no good reasons in others. When people look at this issue, they will come to the conclusion that there is less to this issue than meets the eye. It has probably been overblown in some ways. However, we must ask questions about basic administration and administrative procedures in the context of completing files and the audit procedures involved when a quashing of a notice occurs. Is the Commissioner concerned that basic procedures have not been followed in some districts and divisions?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I thank the Deputy for his question. With the Chairman's permission, I would like, first, to outline the three main pillars under which An Garda Síochána operates, which are to be found in our corporate strategy and annual policing plans. Our mission statement refers to working with communities to protect and serve them and to having excellent people delivering policing excellence. The third pillar is something which will be very familiar to all members, namely, our national emblem of the harp. We use the acronym HARP to remind our members that they are charged with the responsibility of enforcing the laws of this land and protecting communities and businesses, in the widest sense. It stands for honesty, accountability, respect and professionalism. Keeping these four values in mind pretty much takes care of the mission statement and the vision for An Garda Síochána.

The Deputy has raised an extremely important issue for us, that is, the enforcement of road traffic legislation and the powers of discretion that arise in that context. As I see it, there are two issues involved. One is the actual processes, procedures and policy involved and compliance with them. The second is discretion. Depending on which lens one uses to look at some of these decisions, one would have a particular view. I can guarantee the committee that if all of us in this room took ten cases, we would probably come up with ten different views of how to process a particular instance. What the administration of the system - the on-the-spot fines system - is all about is applying balance, equality and non-discrimination. It is also about fair procedures and good practice.

I acknowledge the report from the assistant commissioner, Mr. John O'Mahoney, and thank him for his assistance, through that very detailed report, in establishing the facts surrounding the allegations in this case. It is very clear from the report that the assistant commissioner did not see any criminality vis-à-vis the documents available to him and he studied many of them. He did not see any fraudulent use of the system; nor did he find corruption or malpractice. However, what he did find which is of particular concern to me was non-compliance, or rather, not full compliance with the policies and procedures in place. In that context, he has made a number of recommendations to me which I fully intend to implement.

I am sure the Deputy is aware that there is also the report I tasked the professional standards unit to produce, in which it, in turn, makes a number of recommendations and some of them cross, as one would naturally expect. On top of this, I am aware of the Minister's statement yesterday when he spoke about the need for the inspectorate to examine these proposals and see if perhaps it might have anything to add and validate, I hope, the recommendations we are making in an effort to strengthen the process and provide the reassurance that is so necessary to satisfy the public that it is not about whom one knows or what one knows but about fair procedures.

One of the main criticisms is of senior gardaí investigating senior gardaí, which is a canard. Many people who are not serving investigate gardaí all the time. As the Commissioner mentioned, others outside the force have taken a look at this issue and have made their recommendations. What does the Commissioner say to people who say it would never be possible to have a fair or reasonable inquiry if a senior garda was investigating other senior gardaí?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I have heard these criticisms, of course. What I can say to the Deputy is that Assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney is someone who has been around for quite some time and his honesty, integrity and reputation, not just in An Garda Síochána but in many legal circles and beyond, corroborate the fact that he is someone who is extremely thorough and committed to his work. He picked a team to look at this very disturbing level of allegations made, who are experienced in their own right - experienced investigators. I am very satisfied that he and his team will leave no stone unturned in digging out issues around criminality or beyond if they find them. It should not escape anyone's notice that, like myself, he has done this in the past. Unfortunately, we have had reason to investigate some of our own people for very serious matters. We have brought some of our members before the courts in that respect and some of them have received custodial sentences. It is a question of the people around the investigation wearing the t-shirt and walking the walk at the same time. They are not afraid to take on any issue presented to them, be it on a criminal or procedural basis. That, I suggest, is what Assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney's report reflects.

I have one more question on this issue and will leave it at that, as other members might want to bring up the issue. What will the Commissioner instruct members of the force to do immediately, based on these recommendations? How does he intend to tighten the procedures with regard to completing a file properly when it comes to quashing and discretion, as he has mentioned?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is the case, as one would expect, that all of the recommendations which are a matter of public record at this stage centre on procedural issues and the need to reinforce and inculcate in those charged with the responsibility of cancelling notices that they should do so for good and valid reasons and within the guidelines. It is the case that when one is dealing with a discretionary issue, it is extremely hard to be absolutely either prescriptive or descriptive in legislating because people meet individual circumstances and have to deal with them as best they see fit using their professional judgment. I have seen some of the product of the assistant commissioner's report and would not be entirely happy with some of the judgments made. Nonetheless, the people who made these judgements made them for the reasons they made them, which is an entitlement. What I can do now is reinforce the need to be very careful when one is dealing with these issues and ensure they are being done for all the right reasons.

The Deputy mentioned the need to keep documentation which, of course, is vitally important. There is criticism in the report that this did not happen in a number of cases and, of course, there are a number of people subject to a disciplinary investigation. That has to be dealt with, of course. We need greater oversight of the process and generally a tightening of the procedures in place. What I have done in the interim and during the currency of the assistant commissioner's report is send a directive to all of the officers involved at a level where they are in a position to cancel notices to impress on them the need to adhere to the policies in place and to inform them that there will be a further recommendation coming down the road. I have appointed an assistant commissioner and a small team to ensure implementation and monitoring of that process.

I will move on but stay in the realm of discretion. Last week the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission issued a report with regard to information as it related to a convicted drug dealer and the dealings of An Garda Síochána in garnering information from that individual. I have a general question to begin with. What are the rules for dealing with people who give information? Do we have a blanket ban, for example, on handing over money? What are the rules with regard to prosecution when it comes to someone giving information? Does the Commissioner have concerns that giving someone free rein in exchange for information is potentially very dangerous? I ask the Commissioner to give the committee his thoughts on the report and the circumstances surrounding it.

Mr. Martin Callinan

First, there are clear rules of engagement in the context of the covert human intelligence source system that we have in place, referred to as CHIS, which came into being in April 2006. Prior to that we had a slightly different system. The CHIS system is the process by which we now handle informants. It is very clear what the requirements are in relation to the handling of informants. It has to be said these are extremely difficult people to handle because to have a very effective informant, they have to be quite close to the bone. Therefore, our agent handlers who are all trained in these matters have to walk a very fine line, but the rules of engagement are very clear.

No more than the other topic the Deputy was discussing earlier with me, there is a need to have contact logs with the people concerned. They are told at the outset that under no circumstances can they become involved in criminality. That is a given. It is also the case that we do not use participating informants in this country. I would expect that if a situation were to arise or develop where we did need to introduce an element of participation, it would be a matter of deferring to the Director of Public Prosecutions who would decide on its appropriateness or otherwise. However, we do not give carte blanche to anyone to commit crime; I had very fixed views in relation to it. I am trying not to get involved in specific cases.

It is the case that a report is in the public domain. It is the case that there were very heavy criticisms of An Garda Síochána in the manner in which it approached the investigation. I want to be clear and go on the record to say I am absolutely fully subscribed to the view that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, as a statutory body, is fully entitled to see all of the information we have available to us in An Garda Síochána. That is the first point.

For some time now we have been engaged with the ombudsman commission on how we can safely pass on that type of information and how it would be handled in the context of its obligations under section 103 of the Act to report back to the complainant or otherwise of An Garda Síochána. The ombudsman commission and An Garda Síochána have clear statutory roles. The issue is how we can both manage to successfully do our business while providing the type of reassurance necessary to ensure people are not killed on our streets because of leaked information. We have a clear duty of care in terms of how we process such information. It is somewhat ironic that part of the discussion closed off in the week of publication of the material concerned. I am currently preparing a detailed report for the Minister.

In the course of the particular investigation being spoken about and reported more than 2,000 documents and 140 volumes of material was passed to the ombudsman commission. In my view, this shows a substantial level of co-operation. As already stated, I propose to address these matters in more detail for the Minister, following which there may be further discussion on the matter.

Is the Commissioner concerned that the rules of engagement have been compromised or broken?

Mr. Martin Callinan

My personal view has been communicated to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the ombudsman commission. It is a matter of record. I would not like to comment on any individual case. However, in response to the Deputy's question I have a clear view in regard to criminals providing information to An Garda Síochána being involved in crime. It should not happen.

I have a question for the Commissioner on the DNA database, which we do not have. I understand the relevant legislation is expected in June or July. Perhaps the Commissioner would explain in practical terms what difference that type of database would make to the force and the importance he attaches to it. The Department of Justice and Equality has cited European law issues as the reason for the delay in this regard. Perhaps the Commissioner would set out those issues and outline the practical benefits of having such a database and the urgency in that regard.

Mr. Martin Callinan

If the Deputy does not mind, I will avoid responding to the political part of his question. That is another day's work. I will try to address his question from a practitioners-law enforcement perspective. I am a strong supporter of any instrument that would provide additional assistance to the Garda Síochána in bringing the perpetrators of crime to justice. That is a given and would be first and foremost in the minds of those in An Garda Síochána charged with the responsibility of investigating and detecting crime. I believe such a database would be of enormous benefit for a variety of reasons not alone on the prosecutorial side but in providing a clear indication of innocence, if at issue. It would provide the type of balance that might be necessary in forming opinions, suspicions, grounding arrests and so on. In short, I am a strong supporter of the need for the database.

It was recently reported that the working group on efficiency measures in the criminal justice system recommended that to ease the burden on the courts unpaid road traffic fines could be added to motor tax bills. According to the information I have, currently approximately 71% of District Court business is taken up with road traffic offences. Does the Commissioner have an opinion on that recommendation and does he see any merit in it?

Mr. Martin Callinan

To be honest, I do not have a particular view on it. Anything that assists us in lessening some of the burdens we carry would be of benefit. As the national police service of this country and, given the diversity of the work we do, I believe we are well placed to enforce the road traffic laws. Enforcement of motor taxation is one of those disciplines. It is true that road traffic matters occupy a substantial portion of the business of the uniform section of An Garda Síochána.

With regard to Garda stations, how many have been closed and how many more will close during the coming months? In terms of my constituency, I understand that the handing over by the OPW to a community group of the first Garda station closed there is progressing well. While I never wanted the Garda station to close that the building is being handed over to the community is positive. Can the Commissioner give us an estimate of the number of prospective closures into the future?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Some 136 stations have closed and three more will close later in the year, two of which are in Cork and the third of which is in Redhills, County Cavan. Most if not all of the buildings concerned are the property of the OPW. For my part, I have tried to encourage the OPW to, apart from providing for community service issues, generate interest in members of the Garda Síochána moving into or buying the properties. I believe this would be good for the communities. I know there is an appetite for this because some members have indicated an interest in moving into those stations where accommodation is provided. It would be a positive for local communities also. However, I do not have control of the process.

The Commissioner referred in his opening statement to fixed charge numbers for 2012 being 58,075 as compared with 65,863 for 2011, which is a reduction of 12%. To what does he attribute this?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is probably the result of a variety of issues. It could be because there are now fewer vehicles on the road, greater compliance or a reduction in traffic corps numbers. Any one of those issues might point towards a reduction. As a result of the reduced resources available to us we have been changing slightly from traffic policing to roads policing, which means it is the responsibility of every member of An Garda Síochána to enforce the Road Traffic Act and any other matters that come to their attention, including the traffic corps.

It is a significant drop in one year.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I agree.

My final question relates to recruitment in 2013. Can we expect any new recruitment?

Mr. Martin Callinan

As the Deputy knows, I am a very strong supporter of it and I hope that perhaps the Government could see its way to opening recruitment. I am on the record here and elsewhere in providing an indication that I felt that if the numbers dropped below 13,000, there could be difficulties in providing the type of service we want for the citizens of the country. That is still my strong view and everybody is aware of it. As we approach the coming months and towards the end of the year, the expectation is that we will drop below 13,000 so I would very much like to see recruitment starting again as soon as possible.

I thank the Commissioner.

I welcome Commissioner Callinan and his team to the committee this morning. Deputy Deasy raised the issue of penalty points and as mentioned, the report was clear that there was no criminality, corruption, deception or falsification of records. We take that as a given. The Commissioner indicated that he would not have made some of the decisions that were taken or agreed with them. How do we go forward to ensure this does not happen again and that discretion is used properly and not outside what the Commissioner would deem appropriate?

Mr. Martin Callinan

This is an extremely difficult issue, as the Deputy would appreciate. I am sure all of us in general experience have come across members of An Garda Síochána who may have provided assistance in telling us not to be doing what we are doing or whatever. It is very difficult to be either prescriptive or descriptive and that is the position, unfortunately. The most we can do is provide guidance to members and when considering a particular set of circumstances, it is important to apply the principles of fairness, non-discrimination and impartiality, and gardaí should be practical in what they do. Beyond that we must consider corroboration of some of the issues we were being told, which is very good. That will strengthen the discretionary element that exists, and I am a very strong proponent of discretion. The citizens of this country have been very well served in the past having had those powers of discretion available to members of An Garda Síochána. They should be reasonable, balanced and fair, and they should not favour one stratum of society above another.

I have heard all the commentary about people being "in the right place or circle" and that things will happen in terms of cancellations, etc. It is clearly the case, if one considers the number of cases dealt with by the assistant commissioner, the ordinary citizens of the country have benefited from that element of discretion. I would ask that this should not be taken the wrong way or made into a headline tomorrow. It is an area that is difficult to provide for but all we can do from a management perspective is ensure that the process is such that there is that type of oversight and audit trail available, with no fudging of documents by means of documents being lost or destroyed.

It is essentially a case of ensuring that where discretion is used in future, there is a record of why it is used or a backup for it.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Absolutely.

The three gardaí who could possibly face disciplinary action have been mentioned. Will that be a high-level disciplinary action or is what happened considered serious or minor?

Mr. Martin Callinan

The Deputy can take it that these are serious matters. I have heard the commentary and it would fly in the face of logic to suggest that these are not serious matters. There is a great degree of trust and responsibility placed on the members of An Garda Síochána at the basic garda rank. As one moves up the ranks and sees the responsibility placed on superintendents, district officers and inspectors acting for them, one can see the type of responsibilities being imposed. There is an onus on these people to behave in a manner commensurate with the position within An Garda Síochána. These are extremely serious matters and the Deputy can rest assured that they will be taken very seriously.

We must be careful and I must stress that what we are dealing with is a recommendation from the assistant commissioner that these matters need to be investigated further in the context of disciplinary proceedings. That is a very important distinction and the report of Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney examined the facts produced. It is certainly the case that with the allegations and level of detail contained within them, the people reporting them could not possibly have seen the detail that the assistant commissioner and his team saw. They were disenfranchised through no fault of their own and I do not make any criticism of the members for doing what they did. That is the position.

We must be careful when we speak about a disciplinary investigation. The members at the centre of this should enjoy the same benefits as any other citizen of this State until the facts proven against them state otherwise.

Absolutely. Another investigation will be launched internally in the Garda with regard to the members identified to follow up on the facts outlined by the assistant commissioner.

Mr. Martin Callinan

There will be an investigation to follow up the examination that the assistant commissioner conducted in laying bare the facts as seen.

I will address some of the issues on the agenda today, including motor taxation. The matter may come down to discretion again. The Comptroller and Auditor General stated in his introductory statement that there have been cases where people would have received fixed charge notices for motor tax issues and would have been able to go to a Garda station for a certificate, witnessed by a garda, indicating that the vehicle has been off the road. There may have been evidence that the vehicle was spotted on the road by another member of the force. Is this again a factor of the discretionary aspect of Garda powers? What is the view of the witness on that contradiction?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is slightly different. When somebody calls to the Garda station and asks a member of An Garda Síochána to witness a signature on a declaration, that is all that is being done. Unfortunately, there is no way of checking on a notice previously fixed to a vehicle. The Deputy has figures indicating that approximately 78% of fixed charge notices had been paid, with motor tax being paid subsequently. I have not gone into these figures but I assume that at some point, if the fixed charge notice connected to the vehicle is correct in the first instance, the vehicle would not have been taxed. At some point thereafter it may have been taxed and some explanation must be given to the taxation authority in order to tax the car or pay the arrears.

If it is the case that the notice has not been paid, it will automatically go to a summons stage. It is at that point in court that the Garda or traffic warden would give evidence.

They will have the requisite material from the licensing authority to indicate the car was untaxed and a declaration has been made. So it is invariably the case that the evidence given to the court will indicate that the car is untaxed and a declaration was made, but there is no correlation between a ticket being put on a car and a declaration being made.

Would it be possible, if somebody is going in with a declaration to be witnessed, that the system would be checked to see if there was a-----

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes, this is something we have been discussing with our colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government for some time. As I mentioned in my opening statement, the way to fix this is through the new Bill. It is going to Committee Stage this evening so this will happen very quickly. This is the gapping Bill and will fix the problem we have had in the past in these types of situation because now there will be a requirement on individuals to declare that the car will be off the road in advance.

Will the Garda be involved in that?

Mr. Martin Callinan

That is the declaration that will be made. Maybe our colleagues can give us some assistance.

Mr. Donal Enright

The Commissioner is correct in saying that the Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Bill, which we colloquially refer to as the gapping Bill, will address many of these problems. At the moment a person can walk into a Garda station and get his or her signature witnessed that his or her car was off the road and thereby avoid having to pay arrears for motor tax. If and when the Bill becomes law, a person will be able to make a declaration directly, not involving the Garda or any other mechanism, if he or she wishes to keep his or her car off the road. There could be reasons such as travelling abroad, illness, or the car needing to go in for repair, or it may be a vintage vehicle that is not used very often. There could be dozens of reasons a person wants to keep a car off the road. As long as a person gives that notification in advance he or she will not be liable for arrears.

If a person does not give that notice in advance and presents to pay tax, the facility to go into a Garda station will be gone so that person will have to pay the arrears. There will be no question of not paying arrears if the person has avoided paying the tax and avoided making a declaration that the car would be off the road. Should a person be caught having made a declaration that his or her car would be off the road and it is subsequently found to be on the road, that will be a new offence. In addition to driving the car without tax, he or she would be liable for a separate penalty.

A person who has made an off-road declaration but decides to put the car back on the road within the period of the declaration, which could be up to a year, will be able to tax the car immediately. There would be no difficulty with the person paying his or her tax and putting the car back on the road. He or she would pay the tax from the start of the current month and would not be liable for arrears because of having made an off-road declaration, as required. That is the system, in essence, and it excludes the Garda from the process and reduces the opportunity for people to evade paying their tax. It is anticipated that the additional moneys to be collected will be approximately €50 million to €55 million per annum once the system is in use.

I have a question for the Commissioner. When the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport was here in February it reported that every week it sends a file of non-compliant vehicles to the Garda. What does the Garda do with that list?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I am sure my colleagues would have a greater grip on what happens there, but the Deputy can rest assured that, like any other matter that comes to the attention of the Garda Síochána and requires attention, it is followed up. I do not have the precise detail but I can find it out, or perhaps a colleague can answer.

If the Commissioner can follow it up and send us a note that will be fine.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I would be delighted to furnish a note.

What is the Commissioner's estimate of the level of motor tax compliance in the country? The Department estimates that approximately 5% of people do not pay their motor tax and it is eventually got out of them. What is the Commissioner's view from having gardaí out on the streets doing checks?

Mr. Martin Callinan

My aspiration would be that everybody was compliant, but we are not in a perfect world. We have a role to play and a responsibility to enforce the law as it stands. There may be opportunities for exploring further gantry cameras that could identify vehicles that are off the road. I am sure that would involve additional back-up office equipment to flag those issues. There is a whole raft of possible measures. We discuss these from time to time with our colleagues in interdepartmental meetings, including ways and means of securing the types of compliance Deputy Nolan speaks about.

Would the Garda be in favour of using its speed cameras for motor tax detection?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No. The Go-Safe cameras were set up specifically to deal with road safety issues. The enforcement of motor taxation is an issue for the Revenue Commissioners, although tax evasion is a breach of the law, but we do not see the two as being compatible. The contract regulations and responsibilities expire in 2015 and maybe there will be an opportunity then to look at whether there is a multi-purpose element attaching to any future contract. The cameras are well-documented. There is no sneaky business here. We are up-front in indicating where we are and that is based on surveys done regarding areas where a very high incidence of fatalities or serious injuries occur on our road network. It is about compliance with road safety. That is where we see the thrust of the Go-Safe cameras now. There may be potential beyond that but those issues are explored, as I have said.

The Garda is in the middle of a contract and the cameras being used could not be used for motor tax?

Mr. Martin Callinan

That is my understanding of the contract.

The Commissioner is very welcome and I thank him for coming in. I find the answers he has given to the two main points Deputy Deasy raised - the two areas currently in the news - somewhat difficult to accept. Maybe he could explain it to me. Of the two inquiries we are discussing, one was held into the points system and the quashing of points, while the other was held by the Ombudsman into the activities of the Garda in the case of a drug trafficking informant. They came up with staggeringly different results. The inquiry the Garda held into the points system pretty well gives its guys a clean bill of health. The inquiry held by the Ombudsman is a devastating indictment of the activities of the gardaí in the drug trafficking informant case. One was independent and the other was not.

I wonder what would have happened if the GSOC had investigated the penalty points system and the Garda had investigated the drug trafficker issue because Mr. Callinan has rubbished that report and said it is wrong. Some of us have serious reservations about the fact that the Garda held a non-independent internal investigation into serious allegations. Why did Mr. Callinan not invite an independent body to investigate the penalty points allegations and why did he not interview many of those making the allegations?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I thank the Deputy. There are two separate and distinct entities. I have answered, I hope fulsomely, questions about the particular investigation that was conducted by the GSOC. I have also indicated to the committee that I intend to respond fulsomely to the Minister regarding that report. I certainly did not rubbish the report but that does not mean to say I have a contrary view as to the way matters should be handled. It is extremely important to the citizens of this State when we are dealing with intelligence and the product that flows from individuals who are providing that type of intelligence that guarantees are available to the people who provide information in the first instance because, if not, we all know what are the consequences and we have witnessed over the past 48 hours the level of violence and difficulty we face on a daily basis out there.

It is certainly the case in regard to the GSOC inquiry that the commission's file was sent to the DPP, an independent statutory body set up to adjudicate on wrongdoing and criminality. We know the answer in regard to that. The members of the commission have indicated that they are not pursuing the issue of discipline and, therefore, they moved towards the position we now find ourselves in with me responding to basically what are in essence allegations that we somehow or other prevented them from doing their business much more quickly than they did. That is in essence where we are when one breaks it all down. I have a difference of opinion in that context but I assure the Deputy - I have said this already and I do not mind going back on the record - that I absolutely subscribe to the view that the GSOC is a body with statutory powers that is entitled to see all the information and intelligence we have, sensitive and otherwise. I have made this clear to the chairman of the commission on many occasions. The issue is not whether the commission should or should not see the documentation; it is how that information is handled in the context of its responsibilities. I have huge responsibilities in this area, as I am sure the Deputy appreciates. I also have the reputation of An Garda Síochána to defend and uphold in the context of the other security services that we engage with both in Europe and beyond. There are strict rules of engagement applying to the release of information and documents that are passed on from one jurisdiction to another and I must be careful how I approach these issues.

There is no dispute with us there but I am not rubbishing the report. The negotiations and the differences of opinion that we had as to how we should transact our business in this sensitive area were somewhat protracted. There is no issue there but, equally, there is no issue that whatever needed to be shared was shared. The commission has a view that it should have been shared much earlier and so on but it would not serve the public for me to be involved in a spat with another statutory agency. My clear view in public and private has been that An Garda Síochána must assist the GSOC with its inquiries and investigations. My colleagues are well aware of my views on this matter.

The Commissioner is in a spat, whether he likes it or not. It is all very well for him to say the Garda was co-operating and there is no row. The ombudsman commission stated that there was an absence of training in this area and a culture of non-adherence to the guidelines and that the release of papers was highly unsatisfactory. The commission blames Mr. Callinan for the delay. He has palmed it off and said the Garda is co-operating with the commission but it is quite obvious that the commission's officials found that gardaí were uncooperative on this basis. What will Mr. Callinan do about this? I have reason to believe this is not the only case where they encountered this with the force.

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is clear that since the establishment of the GSOC, we have been involved in excess of 3,900 investigations either supervised or unsupervised. There is co-operation for the Deputy. He raised the issue of me being in a spat. People are entitled to their opinion but the bottom line is the covert human intelligence system as we have it set up is as strong a system as we can have in place. There is no such thing as a perfect system and we will all subscribe to that view but there are difficult areas and we have provided all the procedural guidelines and the procedures to be followed in the context of that. I do not know where the culture of non-adherence is coming from. There will be situations from time to time where members of the force are contacted quickly about particular issues and they have to be dealt with. One would expect that would be the case but within all of this, there is independent judicial oversight. The Deputy is right to raise the seriousness of this because it is an issue for all of us. The importance of getting this right cannot be underestimated. We are trying hard to ensure with the procedures, policy and regulations we have in place that this will happen. It is not perfect but we have studied a few systems to arrive where we are now and we believe that, within reason, this is the appropriate system for handling informants and it is sufficiently robust to provide a level of reassurance both for our members and the people we are dealing with and their families that they can engage with us in confidence. That will form part of my report to the Minister. I am afraid that is where it is.

We are discussing a serious drug trafficking case where someone was caught with almost €2 million worth of heroin and cocaine and then it was decided not to prosecute him for some reason. Is that what happened?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is a matter of public record. As I said earlier, my views have been highlighted to the DPP and the GSOC.

So that is the case and they find that particular episode was not properly handled. According to the report, the informant was run "off book". Can Mr. Callinan tell me what that means?

Mr. Martin Callinan

With respect, Chairman, these are very sensitive areas. I do not want to engage in this particular line. As the Deputy knows, we have never ever indicated that a person is or is not an informant. That has always been our view. One will not find the Garda Síochána indicating anywhere that the particular person who was subject to this investigation was a Garda informant.

Mr. Martin Callinan

One will not find An Garda Síochána saying that so we have to be careful. I am not trying to avoid the Deputy's question. Perhaps if we can generalise it or come around it in some other way I might be able to assist.

Can the Garda Commissioner generalise it? Does the Garda Síochána run informants off book?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No.

So that could not be possible in this case then. Would that be right?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No. The Deputy is asking the question, "do we"? The regulations do not provide for that.

So it could not be possible in this case then.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I have already indicated, Chairman, that this is not an area I can go into. To be fair, with respect, we are dealing with a person's life here. The point has been made-----

I do not want to endanger life but I do want to see if the Garda Síochána is breaching its own regulations.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I mean the Deputy has clearly got the report out in the public domain and views have been expressed as to what happened. I just cannot go there.

How can we find out, in that case, if there are no go areas for us? How can we find out whether the Garda Síochána is adhering to its guidelines?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I think it is important, Chairman, to make the point that we have very clear guidelines on rules and regulations in relation to the running of informants. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is entitled to come in and investigate any cases where it believes there is a breach of those guidelines. That is how the Deputy will find out if matters are not the way they should be. We must be fair here. There is a judicial report which states that substantially - to be fair to the High Court judge who has looked at this, that is as much as he can do - the regulations are being complied with. One will never ever get a system that is entirely bullet proof and I think that is a very reasonable point. I cannot, Deputy, with the greatest of respect, start commenting about an individual who may or may not have been an informant within An Garda Síochána.

No, but I am referring to a situation - maybe I have got this wrong - whereby the Garda Commissioner can go back and say, sorry, we cannot go there, even though it is admitted. I am asking the Garda Commissioner if the Garda Síochána is breaching its own guidelines and he says he cannot go there. That is a fairly dangerous situation; it means that the Garda Commissioner is not accountable in certain areas.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I could not disagree more with Deputy Ross. We are fully accountable to GSOC, the Minister and the Government and I am very clear about my role and responsibility both to my own members, to informants and to the public generally and I have no intention of transgressing.

We have to disagree. Okay, that is fine. GSOC is not happy with the Garda Commissioner; let us be honest about that. It is not happy campers with the Garda Commissioner. The Garda Commissioner may be fully accountable to it but it does not seem to think that he has accounted in time or that he has adhered to the guidelines.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes, that is substantially what they have indicated-----

Mr. Martin Callinan

-----but I will be submitting a report to the Minister in course to deal with all of those aspects, particularly in the context of the covert human intelligence system and its effectiveness and what I see as being a pretty good attempt at dealing with the very sensitive issue of informants and how we handle them. The empirical evidence, if one looks at the amount of detections we have had in recent times, is that one will see at a glance the evidence and product of that chase system and what it has done for the citizens of the State. In the drugs area alone last year, over €100 million was recovered and people were before the courts. On the security side, this year alone, we have 20 people or so, before the Special Criminal Court charged with very serious offences. None of these things come about by driving around in patrol cars and getting lucky. That does not happen. That is evidence of just how effective the use of the intelligence system is. Of course, as the Deputy rightly points out, it is absolutely of critical importance that I, as Commissioner, and my senior management team and all the officers under my command do nothing that would offend against the rules of engagement in terms of handling informants. That is as much as I can say on it.

Obviously, the Commissioner is not going to say any more. Would the Commissioner consider asking GSOC to hold an inquiry into the penalty points? Would it not be better if that body, which is independent, or an outside body, came in, in view of the fact that an independent body has been so critical of the Garda Commissioner and his carry-on recently in a very sensitive area, instead of calling in Assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney, in whom the public may or may not have confidence but I suspect would have question marks about if the Commissioner said let us have GSOC in to investigate this issue?

Mr. Martin Callinan

These are matters beyond my control. I have already indicated my position in relation to assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney, a very experienced man, a man of great integrity, a man who has been around the criminal justice for a long time, a man who has prosecuted not alone members with An Garda Síochána but many serious criminals and a man who is now in charge of the crime and security section of An Garda Síochána, the most sensitive area in An Garda Síochána. His reputation is known far and wide, well beyond the boundaries of An Garda Síochána and its membership, and I think his reputation speaks for itself. I have seen nothing to indicate to me that the integrity or character of Mr. O'Mahoney has been tarnished or offended against in any way. As far as I am concerned, he is a first class policeman, he is a first class officer and he produced a first class report establishing the facts around allegations that, to be fair, could not have been explored fully within the limited access that the people had in producing the allegations. Had they been aware of the information, the further information that was available in so many of these cases, as is highlighted in the report, clearly people would come to a different view and would have to come to a different view. Assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney laid bare the facts of this case, warts and all. That is the factual position whether we like it or not or whether we choose to have a different view. That is the position, Deputy.

I do not doubt anything the Commissioner has said. The problem is that the endorsement is coming from the Garda Commissioner. That is the problem. The Commissioner said that, as far as he is concerned, assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney is a man of fantastic integrity, he is this and that and has got a tremendous record, etc. You are the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. It is in your interest and in the interest of everybody sitting beside him that he produces a report which exonerates and is favourable to the Garda. What we need is someone outside investigating it who does not have a pedigree in the Garda Síochána. I do not doubt for one moment anything the Commissioner has said and I do not doubt the Commissioner in any way but it is a principle involved. For it to be a credible report, it has to come from an outsider. What I do not understand is that the Garda Commissioner does not see that.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I thank the Deputy. I clearly see the point the Deputy is making, but assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney's report is credible and is factually correct. It is based on fact. Where we part company is where the Deputy says it would be better to have somebody else coming in. There seems to be in implication that somebody else may have found the facts to be different.

That is something to which I do not subscribe at all.

One cannot make different judgments. With regard to the penalty points, it seems this is a dangerous area because, as Mr. Callinan stated, it is a matter of discretion. It all is a matter of judgment. Some persons will get off, some will have the points quashed and some will be prosecuted. It will all be a matter of judgment by individual gardaí and then there will be a judgment made by someone else from within the Garda Síochána. It is a dangerous area.

I do not understand why there should be discretion here at all. That is something that is incomprehensible to me. I do not understand why these cases should not go to court so a decision can be made by a court, rather than by a garda, on whether the person is in the right, whether there are extenuating circumstances and what the penalty should be. The idea that there should be a garda there stating, "We will let him off and we will let them off, but we will not let that one off," seems open to abuse. There is too much discretion in that regard. It is asking too much to rely on gardaí to use the sort of discretion the Commissioner might use?

Could the Commissioner answer my question? Why were those making the allegations - certainly, the principal person - not interviewed in this inquiry?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I thank Deputy Ross. It is the case that the allegations that were sent to me by the Department were anonymous. We did not know who had made them. That remained the position right up until some time in December, several weeks after the investigation had commenced.

An incident arose in the Cavan-Monaghan division whereby one of those who were involved in this was in the station and was confronted by a sergeant. This man was printing PULSE documents off the computer and he was asked what he was doing. He indicated that he was printing information off the PULSE system to hand over to a political representative. He was confronted on that and told he should not be doing it. A discussion took place and it would not be appropriate to go into that. Resulting from that, he indicated that he and another person were providing information to a politician with regard to the penalty points system. The result of that was that I took advice, from both the Data Protection Commissioner and the Attorney General's office, and I issued a direction. That is well publicised. Unfortunately - but there you go - all of this has been out in the public domain. I was somehow or other perceived as having put a gagging order on these persons. In among the directions I sent down to the local command was one to ask these persons, if they had any information at all, that they provide that information to Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney, who was then investigating these allegations that are in the public domain, and, in addition, if they had any documents that they had obtained from the Garda PULSE system, that they hand them over. They should not have those documents in their possession. That is when we became aware of those persons, and those are the facts of the situation. We did not become aware when these allegations manifested themselves in the first instance.

Nothing of a criminal nature, as we now know, has been found by the assistant commissioner or his team. Therefore, there was no need to approach the Director of Public Prosecutions for a view or a direction on this matter. Had that been the case, the examination may have taken a different direction and there might then have been a necessity to go elsewhere.

It is very clear from the report - this is an important point of which sight should not be lost - that the persons who were making those allegations did not have all of the information available to them, and one will have seen evidence of that throughout the report - for instance, where allegations were made about those involved in fatal traffic accidents. All of that is laid bare in the report. There are many inaccuracies.

The other point Deputy Ross raised was the issue of discretion. We have spoken about this ad nauseam. One either accepts or does not accept that An Garda Síochána is entitled to have discretion. In certain cases, the Director of Public Prosecutions, who has delegated his functions to An Garda Síochána in relation to certain summary matters and is happy to do that, provides for a level of discretion. As I stated earlier, how that discretion is used is key to all of this. People will have a view as to whether that is a proper space to be in, but that is the reality. My personal view is that I am a strong supporter of discretion. It is a good thing to have in place, provided it is used correctly. Without going over old ground, trying to be descriptive or prescriptive in terms of anything I can put out there to help my members towards that end is difficult beyond issuing guidelines that talk about first principles, non-discrimination, equality and practical application in dealing with a particular circumstance. I think we would all have to agree that if a person is bringing a sick child to hospital or the tax on a car is out by a month in the case of a person who is unemployed or has lost his business, and for whom matters are absolutely going the wrong way, or whatever the situation is that confronts my members on the ground, they should have the power to deal with these matters in a humane way that is balanced and fair. I am certainly not saying, where there are matters of such a serious nature that action is required to be taken, that we should pull back from doing our job and let others decide. Where there are less serious offences of a summary nature coming to our attention, it is very important that the discretionary facility, based entirely on the circumstances of the case and with those principles that I have mentioned in play, continues in the future. It has served the citizens of our country very well in the past. With the proper use of that discretion, it will continue to be of service to the community.

"Proper use" is the key phrase the Commissioner used. Obviously, discretion is open to abuse. I will leave it there. I would have thought that was more a matter for the Judiciary than for the Garda. An offence is an offence and I would have thought the Judiciary would be the body that should exercise that discretion.

The Commissioner is here today answering questions, which is helpful. It is difficult to get information out of the Garda Síochána, as a body. It appears to be fairly unaccountable. Am I correct in saying that the Garda is not subject to the Freedom of Information Acts?

Mr. Martin Callinan

We will be with regard to administrative matters.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes.

That is a political promise, and we will leave that for the moment.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I think it will be a reality very soon.

There is the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, with which the Garda is at war at present. I had a bit of a problem, which slightly alarmed me. I sent to the Commissioner's office a request for an explanation of how much it costs to run his office, which we told him we were sending him. That was in an e-mail dated 21 February. I have yet to receive an acknowledgement, reply or any recognition that these questions, which I can give to the Commissioner again, were legitimate or should have been asked.

They were perfectly legitimate questions about the Commissioner's office, how much it cost to run and what sort of cars it had. They were the usual questions politicians ask of people in positions of privilege and power, like the Commissioner, and were totally ignored. Why did that happen?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I will seek out Deputy Ross's questions and look at them. In respect of how much it costs to run the office-----

Could the Commissioner answer the first question? Why were they ignored? Is that how the Commissioner's office normally treats questions from Deputies?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I assure the Deputy that we have a very good track record at corresponding with Deputies. If Deputy Ross asks his colleagues here or in the Dáil, he would see that they get responses from my office. I always try to facilitate elected representatives in so far as I can. Deputy Ross spoke about accountability. Of course, we are accountable. That is why I am here today. I am accountable to the Minister, the Government and my own officers in terms of my responsibility to ensure they are treated fairly and safely as best I can guarantee considering the business we are in.

Could I stop the Commissioner there for a second? He said he is accountable to the Minister, but some of these questions have gone to the Minister and have been referred to me to ask the Commissioner. I then ask him and get a blank wall. It has been three months.

Mr. Martin Callinan

If the Deputy has those questions-----

I will give or e-mail them to the Commissioner. I felt at the time that because we were in a spat about something, the Commissioner was punishing me for it. I could not believe he would do that but it seemed rather strange that we were getting-----

Mr. Martin Callinan

Deputy Ross knows the level of benevolence for all of my-----

Does the Commissioner see my point?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes, absolutely. It is a serious matter and I will gladly look at the Deputy's set of questions if he forwards them to me.

That is fine.

Mr. Martin Callinan

In case the Deputy feels I am in a spat with everybody, I wish to state that I am not. I am certainly not at war with him and will do my best.

Can I come back later?

I want to begin by saying how glad I am that I always respond promptly to Deputy Ross when he contacts me about any matter. I will begin with a few points and some questions. I acknowledge that of all the witnesses before the Committee of Public Accounts, An Garda Síochána is unique in that its members put at risk their personal safety while unarmed to keep our country safe. I acknowledge all the great work the Commissioner and his colleagues do across all the stations throughout the country, which I see every day.

In respect of discretion and the incentives behind producing the report that is the subject of discussion, I firmly believe the Garda should be allowed to maintain discretion in the implementation of certain parts of our law. It would be a regressive step if we got to the point where the only people capable of implementing discretion in our country in respect of these issues were the judges and the only way of dealing with matters of discretion would be to go to court. The issue concerns how we track that discretion and its visibility and accountability. The incentives for the witnesses over there were to produce a report that laid out the facts in respect of the penalty points issue. It is my judgment that this has been done. It is up to other people to decide what they do with those facts.

The two main issues I wish to focus on are the Garda roster, which was the subject of much discussion in previous hearings, and motor tax. I will begin with my colleagues in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. What is the level of evasion with regard to motor tax?

Mr. Donal Enright

Chapter 26 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General found it to be of the order of 5%. That was also the figure in the UK when it had a taxation system similar to ours.

Where did we get that figure from?

Mr. Donal Enright

I understand that figure was obtained from an extensive survey over a number of days of cars passing the M50 toll plaza. It is detailed in the report.

I have just seen that it was 2010 and 2011. What was the method of detection in that survey?

Mr. Gerry O'Malley

May I answer that question? Obviously, the way the system works is that the cameras on the M50 take an image of the registration plate of the vehicles passing the toll area. Regarding registration numbers, no personal details are compiled into a file that was run against a national vehicle file with the inquiry as to whether the status was taxed or untaxed on those particular dates.

Who maintains the national vehicle file?

Mr. Gerry O'Malley

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and, ultimately, the Minister are responsible for that database.

Do we know how many drivers are on that file?

Mr. Gerry O'Malley

There are 2.3 million currently licensed drivers and in excess of 2 million currently taxed vehicles.

Paragraph 26.17 of the report said that in April 2011, there were 5.1 million registrations on the file. Could Mr. O'Malley explain to me where that figure comes from?

Mr. Gerry O'Malley

They contain the 2 million plus vehicles I have just mentioned as being currently taxed. They would also include a residual number of vehicles that are circulating but untaxed, which is effectively the 5% about which we have been talking. In addition to that, it would include a very old stock of vehicles dating back to the 1970s that were recorded, had previously been or were in circulation, were taxed, ceased to be taxed over a number of years and were not re-taxed. Some of them would have been recorded as being scrapped. The Deputy knows the standards people applied in the past where vehicles were just dumped in lay-bys and would have gone back into landfill in some cases before the situation became much more regulated.

I understand Mr. O'Malley's explanation. What strikes me is how high the figure is because out of the file of more than 5.8 million registrations, we are saying that 2.5 million of them are taxed and viable vehicles on the road. Correct me if I am wrong, but this says there are 3.2 million vehicles on the file of whose taxation status we are not aware.

Mr. Gerry O'Malley

Yes, because there was no regulatory process whereby the notifications of what happened at their end of life were brought into the process. Of that residual number, one million in the grouping were over 20 years old. Of those, 250,000 were over 30 years old, so it is safe to assume that they are not circulating vehicles.

Mr. Donal Enright

Bringing that back to where we started, that is the method by which the Department is able to judge tax evasion. It looked at the details of the vehicles that went through the M50 and compared it with the file.

Mr. Gerry O'Malley

Yes. On the given day we checked it. We subsequently checked after one month to six weeks to see had the taxation status of that vehicle changed in the meantime. There was a double check.

That was the loop that yielded the 5% figure which we have been discussing.

Mr. Gerry O'Malley

Yes.

I refer to the UK figure which was mentioned by Mr. O'Malley in reply to my questions. The UK figure is 0.7%. Why is there such a big difference? Our figure is approximately 5% and Mr. O'Malley very helpfully explained that figure. There is an eight-fold difference between our figure and the UK figure.

Mr. Donal Enright

As we understand, before the UK moved to the system of statutory off-road notifications, SORN - our system of off-road notification will be somewhat similar - their level of evasion was of the same order at 5%. With the change in system, that has dropped to 0.7%.

If I may interrupt Mr. Enright, I ask him to explain to me what was the change in the system in the UK.

Mr. Donal Enright

It is essentially the same change as we are making, the loss of the facility to make a declaration that the vehicle was off the road at some point in the past. A notification in advance must be tendered if it is intended to keep a vehicle off the road.

Is this the gapping Bill we discussed earlier?

Mr. Donal Enright

This is essentially what we are doing here now.

Is there an estimate of how much revenue has been lost through having a higher non-detection rate between the UK and Ireland?

Mr. Donal Enright

The level of loss of tax is of the order of €50 million to €55 million per annum at this stage.

What is the estimate of how much of the gap will be closed when this Bill is enacted?

Mr. Donal Enright

Assuming we can get down to the same sort of level of evasion as the UK, we will probably not be able to collect the full amount but it will be close enough to it.

Therefore, in our view, the gap in the legislation there is the main reason for the different rates of non-compliance between the UK and Ireland.

Mr. Donal Enright

At the moment there is a facility to allow people to have their signature on a declaration witnessed in a Garda station to say that the car was off the road. That is being abused and it is a means of evading tax. We recognise the need to close off that mechanism for evasion of tax. That is the intention of this provision.

Is it known how many such declarations have been made over the past year, for example?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

If I may be helpful by referring to figure 26.4 on page 350 which shows a graphic indicating the number of motor tax exemption declarations over the period 2008 to 2011. It is broken down into the number of off the road declarations which are the ones involving members of the Garda Síochána. There are also declarations relating to change of ownership, in other words, a person stating he or she was not the owner of the vehicle at the time in a particular period and therefore not liable to pay tax. The number indicated for 2011 is probably about 780,000 declarations.

That figure includes the past owner declarations and the off the road declarations.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Yes. The off the road declarations look to be about 600,000.

It is a very high figure.

Mr. Donal Enright

Indeed. In some cases it is recognised that these would be genuine cases.

Mr. Donal Enright

The provisions in the Bill are intended to allow for continuation of genuine cases where the car is off the road and a person is not obliged to pay tax. The motor tax is payable where the car is in use in a public place, and that will continue. There will continue to be a facility to declare a vehicle off the road but in advance rather than retrospectively.

What strikes me is the very high figure of just under 800,000. Over the four-year period, 1.5 million, 2.3 million and more than 3 million declarations were made by people saying that their cars were off the road.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

If I may make a further point, the largest number of declarations were made for gaps of one month, totalling just under 330,000 declarations over the period we looked at, 2009 to 2011. About one third would be declarations for gaps of one month. If one misses the grace period for payment of motor tax, then one must make a declaration in relation to that grace period when taxing the vehicle again.

Mr. Donal Enright

Or one should pay the arrears if the car has been in use on the public road.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Preferably pay the arrears.

Is it known what proportion of people paid their arrears?

Mr. Donal Enright

Approximately 33%, one third, tends to be the national average of response.

Approximately one third paid their arrears. What was the figure for those less than one month to which Mr. McCarthy referred?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

No. The gap declared was of one month's duration, in other words, the vehicle was off the road for the month. For example, if one is due to renew the tax in April and does not do so by the end of April, one must make a declaration or pay the tax for the month of April in order to tax the vehicle for the month of May. There is a kind of structural complication. That option will be eliminated with the gapping Bill.

Mr. Donal Enright

That is the intention.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

One must pay the arrears.

Even with that explanation I still find it striking that the cumulative figure is so high at more than 3 million. In that particular year there were 780,000 declarations. Is it envisaged there will be a dramatic decrease in this number once the Bill is enacted?

Mr. Donal Enright

I have not examined the figures in that context but rather in the context of the increased amount of money that we would expect to collect, which would be of the order of an extra €50 million.

I refer to the statement of the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Callinan, about the current situation. Under the current system, the role of the Garda Síochána is to witness the declaration. It is not to inquire as to the reason for the request for an exemption but rather to witness the signature which is signed at the Garda station in front of a garda. Is that correct?

Mr. Donal Enright

Yes.

Will the role of the Garda Síochána be changed under the new gapping legislation?

Mr. Donal Enright

Gardaí will not have a role under the new arrangements. A person will be at liberty to make the declaration themselves to the licensing authority, ultimately online. A person will not have to give a reason the car will be taken off the road. We recognise there are many reasons. I gave examples of reasons in my earlier contribution. No doubt, Deputies will know of a dozen more reasons. People will have an opportunity to make a declaration themselves. There will be no Garda checking. The person will not have to certify anything other than that he or she will be keeping the car off the road. The corollary is that should they then be caught driving a car having made a declaration that the car would be kept off the road, they will be liable for an additional penalty for having made a false declaration in addition to the penalty for driving an untaxed car. The facility will be available to people should their circumstances change, such as they are back in the country, their leg has healed quicker than anticipated, to enable them to get back on the road sooner. They can then tax the car from an immediate date without having to wait until the expiry of the off the road declaration.

I have one final question on this matter. Before the legislation is implemented, will the Department be doing any further research to create a new baseline for potential evasion so that as the Bill is implemented by the different bodies, we can understand the progress that is being made in dealing with potentially illegitimate declarations?

Mr. Donal Enright

We do not currently have plans to renew the survey that was carried out and contained in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. We think that gives a fairly robust picture of the level of evasion. It reflects the experience of another jurisdiction which had a similar system. We can certainly consider renewing that sort of survey when the transition period for the implementation of the legislation has passed. We have monthly reports on the numbers of cars that are taxed, the period for which they are taxed and the amount of tax that is collected. That is available on a monthly basis and we will be carefully reviewing the amount of tax collected to see if the Bill, when enacted, is successful in its task.

I thank Mr. Enright for those answers. Can the Garda Commissioner explain the roll-out of the roster across An Garda Síochána?

Mr. Martin Callinan

The roster itself is still in a pilot stage and that will extend for the coming months. It provides a facility of ten-hour shifts. There was a need to create an additional shift, and as a result we have now gone to five shifts as opposed to four in the previous regime. The degree of flexibility it affords to us on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays is something we think will address the work-life balance and at the same time satisfy supply with demands in terms of the commitments we have to policing the public.

We believe it is satisfactory. The feedback so far is quite positive. There are some areas of concern, particularly in the plain-clothes departments where there are some issues arising. We hope, in the context of the negotiations with the associations, to be able to straighten them out within the lifetime of the pilot. Overall, it is proving to be quite satisfactory and cost neutral.

When the Commissioner says it is in pilot, does he mean that it has not been fully rolled out nationally or does he mean it has been rolled out nationally and he is still examining how it is doing?

Mr. Martin Callinan

My apologies. Yes, it is rolled out nationally.

So it is in implementation everywhere at the moment?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is, yes.

The Commissioner says it is cost neutral. Is that correct?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes.

I wish to go back to the earlier discussions we had on allowances when the Commissioner participated in a hearing at this committee. Does the Commissioner believe the new roster will have any knock-on impact on the use of allowances within the Garda force?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is still the case that the regime around allowances is in play. There may be variations in the hours worked, of course, but the regime is still the same. Therefore, one has night duty, Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays, and all the attendant allowances for people in specialist areas. All of those things are still there, but of course that is subject to review.

When will the pilot period be coming to an end?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I have to be careful here. We were due to finish up but we had to extend it. As the Deputy knows, further discussions are now taking place with the LRC and the associations. Implicit in all of that is an agreement that the pilot will be further extended to straighten out some of the issues we have been speaking about. Within reason, I would think that possibly towards the end of the year we should have some sort of resolution. I hope we will. There are areas that are causing us some difficulty. They are things we have to iron out, but dialogue will get us there. I am happy enough that will be the case. I think the system we have in place will very much suit the policing of this country.

I have to be careful again but there are discussions and it is part of the dialogue that is continuing within the confines of the LRC. I hope we will have that resolved sooner rather than later.

I want to ask one question on that and I am not being flippant at all. When is a pilot not a pilot? The committee has had many different hearings in this session regarding the importance of this roster and the impact it will make in the policing of our country. However, it is the first time I have heard it referred to as a pilot. I thought it had all happened and was in operation at the moment.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Going back to where we started, there was a need to take into consideration the EU working time directive. That is where we sought to address the policing needs and the work-life balance and get a system in place, which is not an easy thing to achieve. It took quite some time, over 18 months, to push that out. Underpinning all of this, once we had the broad parameters in place, was the need for a working time agreement. We had to go back to the associations, engage with them and work through that process. That has had the effect of extending the pilot even further. All of those things are in play as we speak.

I will leave it at that.

I thank the Commissioner and his team for being here. I wish to acknowledge, as Deputy Donohoe also did, the co-operation that we, as public representatives, receive from An Garda Síochána. It is generally of an exemplary level and if it could be replicated by other State agencies and bodies, both I and those whom I represent would be very grateful. I thank An Garda Síochána for that level of co-operation even in difficult and tense times.

The Commissioner has addressed the penalty points issue at length. It is regrettable that some people were in such a rush to refer to this investigation and report as a whitewash. They could not possibly have read it at the time they were making such declarations because it was before the report was published.

I fully agree with the Commissioner on the issue of discretion. Deputy Ross is not here now. If one were to adopt the approach of having to take everything through the courts, not only would it block up the courts system, one would also see some difficult and possibly emotional cases where people had genuine reasons. Community policing has served this country well.

I bet that when the Commissioner got up this morning, he probably did not realise he would be involved in so many spats. I will add one more to his list, which concerns the ongoing engagement between himself and Garda management and the GRA and AGSI in the context of the LRC negotiations. I know the Commissioner cannot read out the secret document for good reasons, but he might update the committee on where he currently believes the discussions are from the viewpoint of Garda management.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I am getting increasingly worried about all these spats that I am supposed to be involved in.

He is holding up well.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Hopefully. For quite some time, my members felt that I should be shouting from the rooftops about their pay and conditions at a time when the Government had clearly indicated to An Garda Síochána and right across the Civil Service and public service what savings were required to facilitate and comply with agreements with the troika. I had a full and frank discussion with all the associations because I was aware there are young members who are obviously struggling hard with the conditions and the circumstances they find themselves in.

This was real problem for all of us. I called in all of the associations and told them where my position lay and set out the roles and responsibilities I had. Certainly, that did not include my shouting in public about how the Government should conduct its business. I had wider responsibilities towards the organisation in terms of fighting for better conditions, equipment, transport, necessary promotions and all of those things I felt I should be addressing. I have been very proactive on all of those fronts. After that, we had a series of annual associations and conferences and, again, I spoke to the membership in closed session and we had a very full and frank discussion. Since then, there has been a much clearer understanding of my role and what I can do to help out. I indicated that I had been working away behind the scenes and that the people who needed to know about the problems the membership were bringing to my table had been informed and were actually listening. We can see the manifestation of a lot of those things right now in the context of the LRC proposals.

I was asked if I believe all of this will work. I hope it will because it has certainly been the case - as they have, with justification, indicated - that the associations were not centrally involved. That is a huge area which is acknowledged by all reasonable-minded people. Now, they have had an opportunity to get up-front and central with the people calling the shots and making recommendations back to Government. I am very pleased that all of the associations fully engaged with the process and are going back to their members to look for an endorsement of proposals that are set to match and meet our obligations towards reaching the savings. On a personal note, I consider the proposals to be positive and doable. They will in so far as they possibly can satisfy the membership, but that is a matter for the membership about which I cannot do anything. The process has certainly paved the way for a more meaningful discussion between the associations and their memberships. Hopefully, the right outcome will result, to everyone's satisfaction.

What has become apparent from listening to rank-and-file gardaí is the limited engagement they had been afforded, as the Commissioner quite rightly points out. Perhaps these limitations are historic but were not so apparent in good times when there were improvements in conditions. They become much more real for gardaí and their families in difficult times. Bizarrely, we are now able to have face-to-face engagement with all representative bodies, Garda management and the LRC but the regret is that we could not have had it weeks previously.

That leads me to my next point. Many representative associations and public representatives have called for the establishment of a policing commission which would look not just at pay but at the overall structure of the Garda Síochána. Does the Commissioner have a view on that? Does he consider that there would be a benefit in the establishment of a such a body to carry out a review of the entire organisation?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Absolutely. I am in agreement with that. It would be a very positive thing. There is always an element of risk that people might wish for something to happen which does not work out entirely as they expect. I value my membership greatly and have huge respect for the work being done and there is a real opportunity, as I have said to the Garda Representative Association's annual conference, given the level of change the Garda as an organisation has gone through. We mentioned rosters and the change programme earlier. They provide a very real and powerful negotiating tool. I have no doubt that was helpful in the discussions, although I was not, rightly, privy to them. The notion of some sort of commission is a positive one and it would be very helpful where people are reviewing allowances, some of which have been there since God's time. There is a very real opportunity to facilitate or square off the pay elements from members of the Garda Síochána who had been in receipt of these allowances. There is greater acceptance now that these allowances were introduced at a time when successive Governments did not have the ability to provide for an increase for gardaí as to do so would have had a domino effect in many other elements of the public service. There is a real opportunity now to move the organisation and the conditions for its members forward. I am a strong advocate of doing so.

During the spat over the conference season, two things came into the public view, including the issue of categorisation of crime. I have spoken to gardaí who seem to be of the view that crime is being incorrectly categorised. For example, what might previously have been defined as a burglary is now defined as criminal damage or trespass or some other less serious offence. I have no idea whether that is true but I am interested in the Commissioner's perspective.

Mr. Martin Callinan

There are very clear guidelines which set out that a burglary is a burglary and a robbery is a robbery. The dimensions are there. I do not like raking over coals but when I sought clarification from the president of the Garda Representative Association, he did not make any claim of any wrongdoing. He was expressing a view. I spoke to our head analyst, who interfaces with the Central Statistics Office to provide the figures. While he indicated that the CSO has not seen any issue in terms of the information we are providing, they are, nevertheless, meeting to discuss the issue. Days after this matter was brought to a head at the conference, I spoke to my senior management team and asked if they had any evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, that this was happening. "Absolutely not," was the unequivocal reply. I do not know where the notion is coming from. Perhaps it is the case that quality assurance must be addressed in the context of the material that is put on the PULSE system.

The recategorisation of crimes occurs from time to time but the onus is on every district officer to look at offences and ensure they are being properly managed. We have a regime in all Garda districts on crime and crime management and that is where the discussion should take place. I am very clear and my senior officers are under no illusion that crimes should be reported and reported properly.

The second thing that came into public view and was extensively reported in the national media was the suggestion that gardaí were going to stop fining drivers. That ties in with earlier conversations to some degree. Anecdotal evidence was given or suggestions were made that gardaí were issuing cautions to motorists rather than fines as part of an unofficial work to rule or protest. Does the Commissioner have any evidence that that happened and, if so, is he satisfied that with the ongoing LRC engagement, it is no longer the case?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I do not have any evidence that that is the case. I am aware that when one is engaged in the heat of battle on industrial relations issues, many things are spoken about.

I know for certain my members, on more than one occasion, used their cars and equipment when they were required to get from A to B. In one incident a member needed to get to the scene very quickly but not in an emergency. He got into his car and did so. People are very flexible, which has been the case for many years. The Garda Síochána has always been flexible in doing its duty, whether on or off duty, and I have no doubt that will continue. When angry, people speak about different things and I do not blame them. It should never be the case that we do not provide the proper equipment for our members. From time to time, situations arise and are dealt with. However, I have never known a member to refuse to do anything to facilitate the organisation if a task has had to be performed. I do not see evidence of a work to rule. There are certain categories of offence where an adult caution is provided for, but I do not see it and do not think it will happen. Members of the Garda Síochána are committed to doing the job and I see evidence of this on a daily basis.

When I was reading newspaper reports, one comment by a journalist caused concern for many: "Up to now, the practice has been to catch as many motorists as possible for minor offences as traffic gardaí are set targets for fines." Does the Commissioner agree with that assertion? The Garda Síochána has a very important job to do on road safety and the progress made is significant and important. Are people sent out with a directive to bring in a certain amount of revenue?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No. There is a certain irony in the context of the discussion we had about discretion and cautions. Traffic people specialise in traffic matters; detectives also specialise. They all have their particular roles. We are very clear that we applied the law across the board, which is how it should be. No one is bean counting. That said, it would be naive of me to try to convince members that people do not judge us by the level of enforcement, detection and prosecution. Generally speaking, that tangible evidence speaks to our effectiveness and it is a reasonable position to take. That is why we always try our best to solve and prevent crime. In terms of getting X number of summonses-----

Does that not happen?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No, Sir.

This is more a resource issue and one on which the Commissioner is working behind the scenes. It refers to computer systems and technology talking to each other. The Commissioner must excuse me as I am a layperson. The AVPLS system tracks vehicles and personnel. There is also a resource management software system and what is commonly called the command and control system. I am not sure whether the three systems talk to each other. Is the Commissioner satisfied the technology is where he wants it to be? Are there plans to streamline or to be allocated the resources to have one overall system rather than three?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Technology is advancing at a frightening pace. I am grateful to have what we have and would like to see greater integration. However, this comes at a huge cost. In one of the inspectorate's reports we were asked to examine regional control rooms and, within that paradigm, have vehicle location and ANPR systems joined up. That is happening to a degree, but, because of the space we are in financially, we are not in a position to deliver on it. Issues arise from the management perspective. In a number of regions we have been bringing together control rooms in a division and joining up the dots in terms of resources and how they are responding and using the ANPR and other systems. We will purchase an item of back office equipment for the ANPR system which will help us to deal with the situation when it flashes such as a car being stolen or an untaxed car. We will then have the facility to get the information to someone fast in order that it can be dealt with. That is the space we are trying to get to, but technology is notoriously expensive. We have an ICT strategy group that includes Garda and non-Garda experts to examine the equipment we have and the possibility of joining some of the dots and advising us on the next step. That is a work in progress, but financial resources are not what we would like them to be to improve our lot. We are, however, grateful for what we have.

Deputy Simon Harris has raised the issue of cost and funding the Department more generally. The Commissioner's opening statement refers to a reduction of 4.5% in the budget on the 2012 outturn. The Garda Vote amounts to €1.272 billion. We are five months of into the year and I presume people are projecting for the rest of the year. There have been number of promotions which are to be welcomed, but this adds costs. Are there sufficient funds in the Vote to take the Garda Síochána through to the end of the year and honour all commitments? Does the Commissioner have some concerns, with the possibility of a Supplementary Estimate being introduced?

Mr. Martin Callinan

This is nothing new in that our colleagues in the Department are aware of the shortfall. They must return to it with their colleagues in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to try to balance the requirement. As a shortfall has been flagged, no one is under any illusion as to where it is. I anticipate some Supplementary Estimate towards the end of the year to help us to arrive at a break-even position and honour our commitments in terms of the savings we are required to make.

Will the Commissioner comment on the figure being mentioned? Is it in the region of €30 million?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is. The figure is €36 million.

By the end of the year, in order to pay gardaí throughout the operation, the Commissioner will be looking for somewhere in the region of €36 million.

Mr. Martin Callinan

The Minister has given assurances that there is no question of people not being paid. That has been said at conferences and in public.

I welcome the Commissioner. It has been a long session. It is welcome that he is saying he hopes the Government will see its way to opening up recruitment. I hope the Government has an ear to this discussion. The Commissioner may want to have a spat with the Minister, seeing as he is on a roll, in respect of recruitment and the resources available to the Garda Síochána.

To return to the issue of the penalty points, I do not accept the witness's rationale or the manner in which this matter was investigated. That is not to cast an aspersion on the Assistant Commissioner. I am sure he is a very fine and professional man. However, it is hugely problematic that the matter was not investigated and reported on by an independent entity. The Commissioner disagrees with that, but I wish to put it on the record. More specifically, I will return to the issue of the whistleblowers, the two gardaí who came upon this information. The Commissioner told us earlier that this matter came to his attention in December 2012. Is that correct?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes.

It was as a result of a turn of events in Cavan-Monaghan. He said that at that point the investigation was under way and that the information was brought forward, as far as he was concerned, by anonymous sources. Is that a fair summation of the evidence he has given today?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is.

That is completely at odds with what the two gardaí say. They say that in March 2012 they informed the internal Garda confidential recipient and senior Garda management of what they saw as a malpractice or abuse of the system. They have also said that their names were attached to this allegation. They came forward in good faith and they went through the appropriate system and procedure within An Garda Síochána. That is clearly at variance with the evidence Mr. Callinan has given the committee today. Will he explain that discrepancy?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I do not wish to be at odds with the Deputy because I seem to be fighting with everybody.

There might be a dispute over the date but certainly we were aware of the issue the Deputy has raised. That is forming a separate investigation. In fact, the file has gone to the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to that aspect. That is there and it is a given. That is not at variance with what I said earlier. To assist the committee further, when this matter was brought to my attention first, I received two lists, if I can call them that, A and B. They totalled approximately 400 allegations. Many of them crossed, and there was duplication in some. After the analysis of all of that we arrived at a situation where 189 separate allegations were made, and they related to 2,198 issues with tickets that were cancelled. That is where the examination of the Assistant Commissioner O'Mahony's team led. That was running separate to the other matter the Deputy has raised.

I wish to focus specifically on the two gardaí who came forward in respect of the quashing of these penalty points. Those two individuals clearly say that they brought this matter to the attention of the authorities in March 2012. They went directly to the confidential recipient within An Garda Síochána, as per procedure, and they attached their names to this matter from the start. The witness's earlier evidence suggests that he came upon this matter in December and that the matter was from an anonymous source. That does not tally with what the two gardaí in question, one of them a former garda, are saying.

Mr. Martin Callinan

First, the confidential reporting mechanism in place does not afford me the facility of knowing who the confidential reporter is. These people, whoever they may be or may choose to be, report their issue to the confidential recipient, Mr. Connolly. He, in turn, sends me the import of the allegations and I have those matters investigated. I do not know who the confidential reporter is.

Mr. Martin Callinan

That is the case.

Given that it is the case, it is still very inaccurate for the witness to say that the complaint or allegation was made anonymously.

Mr. Martin Callinan

No, it certainly is not. I would not misrepresent the situation to this committee; far from it. It is clearly the case that I did not know who these people were at the time these allegations were presented to me.

The system knew. To say that the complaint was made anonymously implies that the two gardaí in some surreptitious manner forwarded these allegations and ran away from them. That is not the case. The two officers in question went through the appropriate procedure. They went to the confidential recipient and made the allegation. They are absolutely emphatic that at no stage did they wish to distance themselves or have a cloak of anonymity. They were going by the book. My concern is why the witness would appear before the committee and say these matters were anonymous. Bear in mind, he offered that information in response to Deputy Ross's question as to why the two men in question had not been interviewed in the course of the Assistant Commissioner's investigation. He offered the rationale that these matters had been brought forward anonymously.

Mr. Martin Callinan

We had better get the lines clear here. While I do not have the precise date that the two individuals reported to the Assistant Commissioner for human resource management, it is clearly the case that a report of malpractice and corruption was made and a chief superintendent investigated those matters. It is certainly the case that the file is now with the DPP. Leaving that to one side, we then had a situation where I was presented with these anonymous allegations and I was asked to examine them and provide views. I got the Assistant Commissioner and his team to look at these issues and provide the report that is now in the public domain. That is the exact sequencing of this matter. When I was responding to Deputy Ross, I did so in the context of whether these people had been interviewed. The report from the Assistant Commissioner, having looked at the allegations and established the facts, did not see a need on the basis that the Assistant Commissioner had not uncovered criminality. Therefore, there was no need to defer to the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, had it been the case that he saw clear evidence, or even a suspicion, of corruption or malpractice within the allegations he had before him, I presume that would have triggered those people being interviewed.

That is extraordinary. The individuals concerned are not at all hazy about the date or the detail. It was March 2012.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I would have thought it was later. I am aware of it but I do not have that-----

No, it was March 2012. They went through the established channels. There was no management response. They saw nothing happening and, for that reason, these matters came into the public domain. That is their clear statement of the facts. They are concerned at the fact that they were not interviewed in the process of investigating these matters.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I am sorry to interrupt but it is the case that I became aware that one of the gentlemen had indicated that he was working with his colleague in providing information for a particular Deputy.

I then triggered a direction to management in both areas to ask the people concerned to hand over any documentation they had obtained from PULSE, in the first instance. I directed that they bring to the attention of the assistant commissioner now charged with investigating all of these allegations any matter or complaint they wished to raise. I was very clear and precise. I do not have a date for when it happened.

Earlier the Commissioner referred to December 2012.

Mr. Martin Callinan

As the incident happened then, it may have spilled in within the currency of the assistant commissioner's inquiry.

Let me outline the difficulty I have with the way the Commissioner has portrayed the sequence of events. This is to leave aside the independence of the report, or even the outcome, because that has been fully ventilated. In Mr. Callinan's earlier contribution he painted a scenario in which a garda had been caught printing material that he says was being handed over to a Dáil Deputy in a manner Mr. Callinan understands to be inappropriate. Mr. Callinan stated the individuals concerned were not interviewed in the course of the independent inquiry because of an issue of anonymity. I do not know whether it was by accident or design, but I presume it was accidental. What occurred gave an entirely wrong impression of the sequence of events because, as far back as March, the two officers concerned in good faith went through the appropriate procedures within An Garda Síochána in making a disclosure. They saw no response from the Commissioner and - I can only surmise - as a result of concern or frustration, they felt they had to bring these matters into the public domain. Of course, as we now know, that is what triggered the public discussion and the inquiry into these matters. I really do not believe it is fair at a meeting of the committee or elsewhere to suggest the two individuals in question acted in any way other than entirely properly and honourably and in good faith. The Commissioner did not give that impression to the committee and the record needs to be corrected on that score.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Let me do that now. If any member of An Garda Síochána, of any rank, feels there is an issue of impropriety, malpractice or corruption or another issue the Deputy wishes to name, he or she is perfectly entitled to report it, either through his or her authorities or via the confidential recipient route. That is my clear position. What I am saying is that if one has an issue, one should report it before going on the PULSE system, trawling records, pulling them off and handing them over. Let us face it: we all have responsibilities when we see wrongdoing. Every member of An Garda Síochána is obligated to report any form of wrongdoing through the relevant channels or deal with it in whatever way he or she believes is best. In this instance, if one is trawling through a policing system looking for matters that one feels are not right and produces them elsewhere, it is fundamentally wrong.

I understand why Mr. Callinan, as Garda Commissioner, would say that, but he is missing the fundamental point, namely, that although the matter was raised by the book and in an entirely appropriate manner within the structures of An Garda Síochána in March, nothing happened according to the two gardaí. There was no response. That is what triggered the public disclosure of the concern and the material to which the Commissioner referred. That raises many questions, not least about the efficiency or effectiveness or the Garda system of whistleblowing or confidential disclosure. How does the Commissioner account for the delay? A serious allegation had been made through the appropriate procedural channels, yet there was no response or reaction. I suppose the officers concerned felt they had no other option if they wished to have the matter addressed but to bring it into the public domain through whatever channel they chose.

Mr. Martin Callinan

We have received a number of confidential reports. I must be careful as a consequence. There are similarities in regard to some of the issues that were investigated and some of the reports from earlier that were investigated. That is far as I can put it.

I am glad the Commissioner has made the distinction between confidential and anonymous disclosures.

Mr. Martin Callinan

They can be both.

In this instance, they were confidential but not anonymous. How does the Commissioner account for the fact that several months passed without anything being done? Arguably nothing would have been done and there would not have been any report on this issue but for the fact that two officers brought this matter into the public domain.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I would expect that if matters of that nature were brought to the attention of the assistant commissioner, they would have been actioned. My information is that a file is now with the DPP. I do not have the finer points that the Deputy seems to have. The fact remains that those matters are with the DPP.

What will not be with the DPP and what rests with the Commissioner is the issue with the system he has within An Garda Síochána for confidential disclosures of this nature.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes. All of the reports I receive from the confidential reporter are investigated without delay.

How many such reports would the Commissioner have received in the past 18 months?

Mr. Martin Callinan

The number is small, but I am not at liberty to elaborate on them.

I am not looking for the detail, just the quantity.

Mr. Martin Callinan

The number of reports is small.

Were there two, three, ten or a dozen?

Mr. Martin Callinan

The number is small.

Why can the Commissioner not give a number?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Because it is a confidential process.

I am not asking for the subject matter or any of the fine detail, just the quantity.

Mr. Martin Callinan

The number is small.

Can I assume it was less than 10 or 20 in the past 18 months?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I believe the Deputy's assumption is correct.

Is the Commissioner absolutely sure that each of these disclosures has been processed and dealt with in a fair and appropriate manner?

Mr. Martin Callinan

They have all been returned to the reporter. I am not entirely clear on what he does with them after that; that is his business. My obligation is to receive them, have them investigated and report back. That is what I do.

If that is to happen in every case, why did it not happen in this instance? Given that the complaint or disclosure was made in March 2012, why was it not on the Commissioner's desk by April of that year? Why did we have this turn of events?

Mr. Martin Callinan

My understanding is that the people about whom the Deputy is speaking reported to the assistant commissioner responsible for human resources management and that the matter has been ongoing since.

Without reference to the Commissioner.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I do not believe I have anything in my office.

Explain to us what the standard procedure is where disclosure is made. The officer concerned approaches the confidential recipient. I ask Mr. Callinan to talk us through what happens then.

Mr. Martin Callinan

The confidential recipient examines the matter, does whatever he or she does, and forwards the import of what is reported to him or her to me for investigation. I have a number of people nominated at assistant commissioner level to investigate these matters and report back to me. I then report their product back to the confidential reporter.

What should have happened is that when the officers came forward and made the disclosure it found its way onto Mr. Callinan's desk.

Mr. Martin Callinan

They could have gone through their own management and had the matter investigated. There are a number of ways in which one could report these things. The confidential report is one.

When one goes to the confidential recipient, the next step is Mr. Callinan. Is that correct?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes.

The two gardaí are very clear that they went to that confidential recipient.

Mr. Martin Callinan

A number of such reports passed through my office and had been reported back on. Some are still outstanding.

I know. For the purposes of this meeting, I am only interested in what happened in this case.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Of course.

Did the case land on Mr. Callinan's desk? Did it not make it to his desk?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I do not have the names. That is what I am trying to tell the Deputy.

I am not talking about names. I do not intend to give names. I am saying that two individuals went through this particular route on this substantive issue, and the appropriate way of dealing with this is for the confidential recipient to report to Mr. Callinan, because he is in charge, and he then nominates a person from his panel. They chose this route in March 2012 and precisely nothing happened. I want Mr. Callinan to explain to me what happened.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I am trying to explain what happened to the Deputy. If a report comes to me through those channels, I do not delay; I move them on and out to an assistant commissioner, who goes off and reports back. Have I seen some similarities between what I have received and some of the allegations that Assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney investigated? Yes, I have. Within the confidential reporting mechanism I do not have the names of those individuals who are reporting.

No, but Mr. Callinan has the substance of the allegations.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Absolutely.

This is not about the names; rather, it is about the substance of the allegations.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I thought that was what we were discussing.

I need Mr. Callinan to tell me whether the matter landed on his desk from the confidential recipient.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Deputy, I will have to keep repeating myself. I am not sure where this is going. If a person has reported an issue through the confidential reporter, it will come to me and I will have the matter investigated and sent back. I do not know who these people are. That is part of the system.

I understand the system.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I do not necessarily have the names.

Is Mr. Callinan saying that several different reports landed on his desk on the same issue?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I am saying a number of reports have come to me through the confidential channel and have been returned. I am also indicating-----

Dealing with the issue of the quashing of penalty points?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I am also indicating that I have seen a number of similarities between some of the issues that have come through the confidential reporting system and the allegations that were before the assistant commissioner, Mr. O'Mahoney.

Okay. I find this very tortuous-----

Mr. Martin Callinan

So do I.

-----in terms of getting the information from Mr. Callinan. I am simply trying to establish whether the system worked for the two whistleblowers.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Sure.

Maybe Mr. Callinan is telling me that several reports on the same issue landed on his desk and he cannot be sure from whom they emanated. Is that what he is saying?

Mr. Martin Callinan

That is it, Deputy. That is what I have been trying to indicate.

The two gardaí were not alone in raising this substantive issue. Is that the case?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Again, I do not know.

You know whether the issue landed on your desk.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I could make assumptions, but I am not in the business of doing so. However, I could make assumptions that some of the confidential reports I received, attended to and presented back to the reporter were from the two individuals concerned. That would be an assumption on my part and would be unsafe. We can all make up our own minds as to whether that is, de facto, the position.

Let us forget the assumptions. At any stage, did a report - never mind the names attached to it - land on Mr. Callinan's desk in respect of the quashing of penalty points from the confidential recipient?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes; very few, but some. The volume was nothing near the allegations that were presented to me, which I asked the assistant commissioner, Mr. O'Mahoney, to look into. I must be clear about that.

We have established that the matter landed on Mr. Callinan's desk. It strikes me, then, as strange that it took a very public and unorthodox route for two of his officers to spark the investigation that happened. Perhaps Mr. Callinan can give an account of that.

Mr. Martin Callinan

With the greatest respect, the only people who can answer that question are the two individuals concerned. I want to be very clear. If somebody has an issue regarding criminality or impropriety of any description, he or she is at liberty to report that upwards to other channels through the confidential reporting system or straight to my office and I will have such allegations investigated. There is no ambiguity at all. That is my position.

Equally, if individuals step forward and go through these channels, they have to be absolutely assured that the system works, that there will be an appropriate response and that they will not be left in a situation in which they have made a disclosure confidentially but nothing has happened.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I would be extremely disappointed if anything like that occurred and if some response did not take place, either through the confidential recipient reporting mechanism or otherwise. If someone is reporting wrongdoing, to be fair, it needs to be dealt with.

Does Mr. Callinan intend to review the procedures for confidential disclosures?

Mr. Martin Callinan

The procedures are very clear, to be fair. If there is a quirk in the system somewhere, it may need to be looked at. The numbers are small, but there have been other matters attended to outside of this area which have gone through the system very successfully.

Can I suggest that Mr. Callinan look at that again? The system clearly did not work for the individuals concerned. They felt they made a disclosure, but that there was no action taken on foot of it. They were clearly frustrated into a position whereby they brought matters, through a different route, into the public domain. The response from management was an in-house investigation of the matter. Can Mr. Callinan see how bizarre that looks to somebody on the outside looking in and how worrying that is?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Of course I have to respect people's views. It is my job to look at all angles. All I can tell the Deputy is that when I was presented with these allegations they were taken extremely seriously by me, so much so that I appointed my senior investigator in An Garda Síochána, the assistant commissioner Mr. John O'Mahoney, who has tremendous experience in this area. He put together a very senior team to look at this issue and deal with it.

Yet Mr. Callinan cannot account for the fact that there was a delay of several months between the time these two honourable people - and they are honourable people - made their disclosure and any action being taken on foot of it.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I have no axe to grind with these people. They did, I am sure, what they felt was appropriate from their perspective. I too did my job. When I got hold of this information, I moved it on fast and got a fact-finding report that laid bare the facts as they were presented. That is a matter of record.

Mr. Callinan's coming by this information happened to correspond with the matter being raised in the Dáil. It strikes me that there is a problem in this scenario, although I cannot put my finger on exactly what or why that is.

Mr. Martin Callinan

To be clear, I came by these allegations when they were sent to me. Had they been sent to me by these two individuals, they would have received the exact same treatment. They were far too serious for me to ignore or push under the door with the intent of looking at them in six months time. That is not my style and I would not do it. They were very serious allegations that needed to be addressed immediately, and that is what I did.

There is a clear clash between the Commissioner's account of events and the account of the two gardaí.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Safe to say, it may very well be the case that some of these matters came up through the confidential reporting system and were dealt with in such a way that I would not have known those names. I do not know. I cannot say any further than that.

I welcome the Commissioner and his colleagues. Is Mr. Callinan satisfied with the confidential recipient system that is in place in the Garda Síochána? As a result of recent events, have any changes been made to that process, including the personnel involved, or is there an intention to implement such changes?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No change has taken place in recent times.

There has been no change in the past year as a consequence of these events?

Mr. Martin Callinan

There has been no change in the process of confidential reporting.

Are we to take it then that Mr. Callinan is satisfied with the current system?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Information comes in to me, I send it out for investigation and I subsequently report back. It is a fairly straightforward system.

It seems to me from listening to the discussion thus far that certain matters were referred to the confidential recipient. Whether or not they were anonymous is neither here nor there; they were referred to the Commissioner's office. Mr. Callinan took some action on foot of that and whoever dealt with it dealt with it. Is he satisfied with the response that was given? The person making the confidential complaint might have a different perspective on that response, but is Mr. Callinan satisfied with how the confidential recipient process worked in terms of how the complaints were dealt with from the outset?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes. I did not hold any document in my possession. When the confidential reporter writes to me, the matters contained in the correspondence are actioned straight away for investigation and inquiry. They are reported back to me.

I am not making light of any of the issues here but it is always possible that where a person makes a complaint and it is dealt with to the satisfaction of the procedure in the organisation, that might not necessarily be to the satisfaction of the complainant. That happens in every organisation.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I should say that I do not know. It could not be excluded as a possibility.

To reiterate, I am not making light of anything. As we all know, the public is not happy about what has been discovered. Mr. Callinan seems to be saying, however, that the information that was downloaded from PULSE and given out in the public arena amounted to far more than ever went through the confidential recipient in the first place.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Absolutely.

In other words, a large portion of what we became aware of through the public arena had never gone through that process?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Not in that form.

To be clear, I am not here to defend Mr. Callinan's corner but I want to hear both sides.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I have made that point and I cannot make it any clearer. That is my position. We would all agree on the gravity of the allegations; they were absolutely mind-boggling and needed instant action, which is what I made sure was done. However, if the Deputy is asking me whether what came through the confidential recipient reporting mechanism was of the same magnitude as what was put into the public domain, the answer is "No".

Finally, will the Commissioner explain the role of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in all of this? Is it free for somebody to make a complaint to the ombudsman commission in respect of how this matter was dealt with by the Garda? Is that option there?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes, members of the public are entitled to make a complaint to the ombudsman commission about any aspect of policy with which they are unsatisfied.

In other words, is there a reasonable possibility - I am not saying it will happen, but it is possible - that this case could be referred to the ombudsman commission?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Anything is possible.

My point is that it is possible the process is not yet completed.

Mr. Martin Callinan

To clarify, there is no provision for members of An Garda Síochána to make a complaint to the ombudsman commission. Members do not have that right.

Does the same prohibition apply in the case of retired personnel?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I have not come across that situation before.

Perhaps Mr. Callinan will send me a note on that point. I assume it is covered in legislation.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Most likely it is.

I am not trying to trap Mr. Callinan on the details but merely attempting to follow through on the issues that arise.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I accept that.

A member of the public then, or a Member of the Oireachtas, if he or she chose so to do, could take this issue to the ombudsman commission tomorrow morning. Mr. Callinan is not saying whether this should or should not be done but that it is possible. Will he clarify that there is nothing preventing an individual from doing so?

Mr. Martin Callinan

This is a debate I will have to stay out of. We are all aware that the Minister is referring the matter to the Garda Inspectorate. I should not go beyond that.

In other words, it is not over yet.

Earlier in the discussion, in response to a question from Deputy Shane Ross, Mr. Callinan indicated that the Garda Síochána does not run any informants "off the book". Is he satisfied that the Garda does not pay informers?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes. That should not happen.

Mr. Callinan might be able to offer some insight on a matter which, although it does not strictly come under the Garda Vote, would nevertheless be of interest to the public. Each year, under Vote 15, an allocation is made for the secret service. Last year, for instance, the payment through that account was €515,000, while the Estimate for this year gives a figure of €1 million. We all know that what goes through that account is, by definition, confidential. It is the standard discussion we have every time it is discussed in the Estimates, and I accept that Mr. Callinan cannot tell us any of the details of what is involved. Moreover, I support the Garda's intelligence processes and whatever must be done in the interests of protecting the citizens of this State. I am coming at the issue from that perspective.

I am wondering, however, whether Mr. Callinan has any jurisdiction in respect of the secret service account and the €515,000 that was spent last year, which is a matter of public record. I accept he has no Accounting Officer role in this regard; I assume that comes under the remit of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes, it does.

I do not want to talk about any of the details or compromise any intelligence. However, I would like to know whether the Commissioner, as the man we all look to as overseer of our police force and its function to protect citizens, or any member of his force, has any involvement with that secret service account? Or is there another person or entity with the remit to make payments to people from the account, payments which do not come through the Commissioner?

I am trying to get at the point that the State voted and paid €515,000 into a Secret Service account last year. Was the Garda Síochána involved in, or did it know anything about, the payments that went through that account? I am not asking the Commissioner to account for it, but is he aware of it or is there somebody else able to pay people off the books? If so, who is it?

Mr. Martin Callinan

First, to be absolutely clear, as far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as an off the books payment.

Good. I am happy with that. We will come to that issue separately.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I am going to try to address the questions the Deputy is asking. It is the case that we have a very strict regime in place. We spoke about covert human intelligence sources. Within that capacity to gather intelligence there is a facility to make payments to people who provide intelligence. That is very strictly controlled by members involved in crime and security work and overall responsibility is fixed for making these payments. There is book-keeping methodology used. Does that answer the Deputy's question?

Yes, but can the Commissioner tie in the Secret Service Vote? I know he is not accountable for it.

Mr. Martin Callinan

That is generally how one refers to it, but the term is wrong.

Is this covert insurance, covert security? Will the Commissioner run the name of the organisation by me again?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is the system we have in place, the covert human intelligence source system.

Is that what we really call, for the purposes of Vote 15, the Secret Service?

Mr. Martin Callinan

That is part of it, yes.

Are the people who approve and make and record the payments within the Garda Síochána?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Absolutely. There is no question about it.

That is fine because when we ask the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to talk about this topic, it says it is a secret, which is fine, but the Commissioner is the man who knows something about it.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Now I am probably in even bigger trouble for being so open and transparent.

The Commissioner is being helpful to the public which is important in a meeting like this one.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Of course.

I am not criticising the Commissioner; I am just trying to elicit information.

I have a few more topics to raise. We all saw an improvement last year in Templemore in Garda vetting when the time shrank from six months to three months and four weeks, but we are definitely seeing a deterioration in the waiting times again. Why? We are all getting complaints again in our constituency offices.

Mr. Martin Callinan

The Deputy is right. There is an issue. If one goes back to the start of this process, the Garda vetting unit grew from a very small cadre of people based here in Dublin in the criminal records office and it happened around the time of decentralisation. The vetting unit was born. Efforts were made to increase numbers, but there were difficulties similar to those in which we now find ourselves. The superintendent in charge of the unit put in place a system whereby organisations, authorised signatories, could verify a list of people. For example, in the teaching profession, authorised signatories provided volumes of people who needed to be vetted such as teachers and career guidance counsellors. The basic criterion was that anyone who had contact with children or vulnerable adults was listed. That was purely a quality control issue and put in place in order that as best we could no one would usurp the system and claim, for example, to be Martin Callinan and ask for a clean bill of health. That system works to a degree with limited resources. As more and more people began to feed into the system and with the introduction of the legislation coming down the line and the need perhaps to share soft intelligence, this is becoming problematic for us. We have managed to secure some resources. I understand the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine-----

Some 25 staff.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes and we are trying to match it from within our resources. There is continuing dialogue with the Department of Justice and Equality.

When does the Commissioner expect to get the figure back down to four weeks? We run into cases in which, for example, somebody is applying to participate in a community employment scheme and wants to participate in a FÁS scheme, but by the time he or she receives clearance the post is no longer available. People are losing out on employment opportunities because of the delay.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I am absolutely alert to the predicament in which we all find ourselves. This problem will not go away until such time as we have adequate staffing levels within the unit to provide the service that we need to provide, but-----

Is there anything that can be done at an administrative level?

Mr. Martin Callinan

We are working very hard to address this issue on a priority basis. I have been handed a note which states that in 2013 to date 30% of applications are processed within three to four weeks. They are processed on a prioritised basis and if we receive information that there is an absolute priority to process some applications more quickly than others, we have to give that serious consideration, not that one likes to differentiate one from the other because everyone is entitled to receive clearance. The rest, the other 70%, can take anything up to ten to 14 weeks to process.

Therefore, there is some discretion. We are always told it is done in chronological order. I have one suggestion, although it may require legislation and the Commissioner can tell me if that is the case. Some individuals have to be vetted three or four times simultaneously, for example, for employment, to be a trainer in the local sports club and be involved in a youth service organisation somewhere else. There are multiple vettings of the same individual. Can the Commissioner change this at an administrative level or does it require a change in the law?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Unfortunately, I cannot change it.

It is a matter for legislation.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I do take a practical view. For example how unlikely, or likely, is it that someone who received a clean bill of health on 1 January this year will have been engaged in some-----

The person is still caught in a queue.

The Commissioner mentioned doing nothing off the books. In Vote 20, note 5.4, Settlement with the Revenue Commissioners, the Comptroller and Auditor General states:

Included under the A.1. Subhead is a settlement of €12.5m to the Revenue Commissioners in December 2011 in respect of a legacy liability covering taxes applicable to certain allowances and expense payments made to Garda members in the period 2009 to 2011.

How did the Garda Síochána which is supposed to uphold the law of the land get itself into such a situation? How did that come to be uncovered? Was the Garda Síochána published as a tax defaulter like everyone else? That would have been by far the biggest settlement. How much was tax? How much was interest? How much was the penalty? Given that the Garda Síochána is responsible for detecting crime, does it show a slight ambivalence towards tax evasion and white collar crime in the Garda Síochána that it found itself in this position? It was depriving the people of that €12.5 million. People will be alarmed to know how it came about. Will the Commissioner talk me through the process and how the Garda Síochána found itself having to make a settlement with the Revenue Commissioners?

Mr. Martin Callinan

The settlement was made as a result of negotiating with the Revenue Commissioners. First, there are several allowances that date back to the foundation of the State, negotiated through the conciliation and arbitration scheme which is a statutory body for negotiating all of these things. We made a declaration in respect of inspectors who were visiting various departments that we had X amount in allowances that were tax free. Revenue took the view that we should have been paying tax on them. We argued that these matters were dealt with through the conciliation and arbitration scheme and were, therefore, agreed there.

My understanding is that the Departments of Finance and Justice and Equality and I have a representative on this. All of the key stakeholders are there and-----

Except the Revenue Commissioners, which decides these matters.

Mr. Martin Callinan

The Department of Finance is there.

It is not the Revenue Commissioners.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I accept that, but they are there to lend assistance. I am not creating an argument but indicating that we were faced with the prospect of a large tax bill because of all these tax-free allowances that had been negotiated successfully over time. The Revenue Commissioners took a view that we should actually be paying tax on them. That is from where the figure of €12.4 million came.

Yes, but it refers to taxes applicable to certain allowances and expenses payments to Garda members between 2009 and 2011. That is very current. This is no legacy issue from the foundation of the force. What change happened so that from 2009 onwards the allowances were taken into account? Did the Revenue take a benign view and not go back prior to 2009? What grade was involved? The Commissioner spoke about inspectors going around the country. There must be a breakdown of this allowance which the Commissioner can make available to the committee, because it cannot be in the report without his having a detailed note on it. How much did interest and penalties come to?

Mr. Martin Callinan

The inspectors referred to are tax inspectors. They took the view that they would assess us in those years and that was the outcome of the discussion. They investigated for those three years and computed that figure, which we settled on subsequently.

Were interests and penalties included in that figure?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No; that was a once-off payment.

Anyone else would be caught for interest and penalties. Maybe it is a question I should direct to the Revenue Commissioners.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I am grateful they did not.

Interruptions.

As everyone in the private sector would be. We get complaints every day about interest and penalties.

Was the Garda listed on the tax defaulter list?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No, because we made a voluntary disclosure.

Was this after Revenue Commissioners did its inspections?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No; as I said, we made a voluntary disclosure. Then Revenue looked at the books and assessed that for the period from 2009 to 2012 we owed €12.4 million.

It is unusual that the Garda should be caught in such a situation.

Mr. Martin Callinan

We are not unique. There were other examples.

No, but the Garda is meant to give a good example.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Of course, and we try to do our best. It will come as a surprise that the Revenue Commissioners had to penalise itself in the same vein.

Management then had to tell its members that it would have to deduct tax from an allowance they had assumed was tax-free. Was this a bone of contention among those members?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes. This is the reality. We are now tax-complaint.

Were many staff affected?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I do not have the figure for the number of members affected.

Will the Commissioner send me on the details?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes, I will.

We would have read about anyone else in the newspapers under the tax defaulter list.

Mr. Martin Callinan

My director of finance has confirmed to me that the press was on the ball, as usual, and publicised it.

Where would we be without the press?

Mr. Martin Callinan

That is a longer debate.

Interruptions.

Regarding the amounts the Garda collects for bank cash escorts, in 2010 it was €4.276 million, in 2011, €3.8 million and in 2012, €2.2 million. Crime has not gone away, so why did the banks only pay half last year what they paid two years ago? Does the Garda get paid by An Post for escorts, as there are many cash deliveries to post offices? Does An Post make a separate payment on a similar scale?

Mr. Martin Callinan

There are timing issues governing some of the payments. It is the case that we have been looking with the banks at how we do our business with regard to cash escorts. There have been reductions in some of these areas and we are looking at reducing them even further.

We do not charge An Post as it involves a public service and body. The banks are commercial entities.

Will the Commissioner send us a note on that? The banks should be paying the full price for security of their cash. There was quite a battle over the years to get the price up. Maybe the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will make a note of that. I hope we are not going soft on the banks.

In the year in question, €20.103 million was paid in compensation in 3,504 cases. Of these cases, 2,595 were occupational injuries with an average settlement of only €64, which we can discount, as these are very small. The ones I am most interested in are the €2.6 million paid out following car accidents to 373 people and the €6.2 million paid out to 234 civilians who took actions against the State following actions of the Garda, as well as people receiving moneys for accidents in Garda stations. In the year in question, 241 gardaí rightly received payments under the Garda Síochána Compensation Act, which came to €9.756 million, an average of €40,484 to each recipient. There is a note in the report that at the end of the year 1,160 of these cases were still outstanding. At a clearance rate of 241 per annum, it will take five years to clear this backlog, and it will bring the final figure to €50 million. When a garda is injured, why will it take up to five years to receive compensation? I accept some of the cases in question may be in the courts, but, in fairness to the force’s employees, most employers would try and get it expedited as far as possible. From the figures, it appears that almost 10% of the force have cases pending that have been put on the long finger. These members are still working while waiting years to be compensated. This is unfair on the individual garda.

How much of these figures are due on legal fees? Would it be a third? Will the Commissioner provide a breakdown of the amounts paid to the gardaí injured, who deserve to be compensated for protecting us in the line of duty, and the role of the State Claims Agency in this?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I thank the Deputy.

I know the Commissioner was listening and trying to get some information-----

Mr. Martin Callinan

The Deputy can rest assured that I was listening intently. I was multi-tasking.

-----but does he get the point that it is unfair on his members? Why does it take so long? Why does it take five years?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It is the case that people who claim compensation have to go through the High Court. That is the regulatory position. Under the compensation Acts, they must go to the High Court.

Mr. Martin Callinan

In the regime in the High Court there might be a variety of reasons delays would occur. There might be a dispute about medical evidence. It is a lengthy process. I agree with the Deputy in that regard. As the State Claims Agency will take over this process, we hope there will be some relief and that we will be able to deal with these claims much more quickly and satisfactorily.

When did the State Claims Agency come in on it?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Will the Deputy give me one moment?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Perhaps I will pass over to my director of finance who is more familiar with the regime in place.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Members who are injured while on duty are required to go through the High Court as part of the compensation Acts; therefore, there is no discretion in that regard. The State Claims Agency handles all of our civil actions. There is draft legislation to remove the requirement for members to go through the High Court and to enable them to settle their actions through the State Claims Agency which, of course, will accelerate the process and thus avoid the additional cost of legal fees for the State.

We are all in agreement that it is very distressing for a member of the force who is badly assaulted at 3 a.m. on a Sunday to know that when he or she wakes up in the accident and emergency department in a hospital the next morning, he or she must take on the State through the High Court to get compensation. We should change the legal process. It is bad enough having an injury. A car accident can be dealt with reasonably promptly without the need to go to the Circuit Court. We are heaping stress and trauma on the member on whom we rely, as does the Commissioner, saying sorry for his or her troubles and that in five years time his or her case might come up in the High Court. It is an awful way to treat gardaí, of whom I am being supportive. I am looking for better treatment for its members.

Mr. Michael Culhane

We are in agreement with the Deputy's comments and most anxious that compensation claims be handled speedily, preferably through the State Claims Agency rather than obliging members to go through the High Court. Of course, that is subject to the legislation being changed. I understand the Department of Justice and Equality will bring forward legislation on the matter.

Mr. Culhane might send us a note on what was paid out between 2011 and 2012. How much was paid out in legal and medical fees and how much went to gardaí? I raised this issue previously and was astounded to find that a certain amount was paid to the garda and that 50% on top of this covered legal fees because the case was dealt with in the High Court. It was phenomenal. Somebody is doing a lot better out of this than the poor garda.

I welcome Commissioner Callinan, his staff and the officials from the Departments. I record my deep appreciation of the work of the Garda Síochána. Given the constituency I represent, I am very conscious that many gardaí go to great lengths to serve the public with courage and conviction. It is very important to note this. Perhaps it is because they are very visible and on the front line, but I particularly notice it with community gardaí who do a great deal in liaising with the communities in which they work.

Some time ago I asked the Commissioner at the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence about white collar crime. Looking at statistics from 2003 to 2011, I notice that there was a significant decrease in the number of convictions from 579 in 2003 to 308 in 2005. The number increased to 352 in 2007 but decreased to 300 in 2009 and to its lowest level of 178 in 2010. The conviction rate increased again to 223 in 2012. I realise I am pointing to crude statistics, but there is huge concern among the general public about the slow pace of some of the investigations into the banking industry and the things which went awry in it. Does the Garda have adequate resources to deal with white collar and, most particularly, the issue about which the general public is particularly concerned, namely, the misdemeanours in the banking industry?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I thank the Deputy for his complimentary remarks.

The issue of resources presents a continuing challenge for us, as the Deputy will be aware. We are trying to beef up all of the units undertaking major investigations. For instance, if we have a major issue such as at Anglo Irish Bank, we draft people in who have previous experience in the area and other investigators to assist in dealing with some of the more mundane aspects of the investigation which need to be attended to. Of course, we would all like to have more resources, but we just do not have that luxury with recruiting the way it is.

There is a huge stream of work being done by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. This is a particularly complex area, as the Deputy knows. Fraud is extraordinarily complex and it takes an awfully long time to get to the bottom of it. One is in and out of court looking for court orders against companies and so on. All of these things take time. As confidentiality clauses are introduced, it is difficult. However, we are aware that there has been an increase in more recent times and we are doing our best to deal with it.

If the Commissioner believes he needs more resources in this area, I suspect it is one on which the Government might look favourably because the issue is so pressing. In terms of strengthening democracy and respect for institutions in the country, it is important that the Commissioner and all those working under him have the resources they require. Can he give any indication of the increase in resources or personnel involved or has he had to take them from elsewhere to work on what I accept are extremely complex fraud investigations?

Mr. Martin Callinan

There is an advertisement campaign. We have two forensic accountants - grade I - working in this area and they are highly skilled and very specialised. We have an advertisement on the go looking for an additional two and we believe we will be successful in securing them in the not too distant future. I cannot give the Deputy a precise date, but we have indicated that we need them. It is an ongoing process.

The difficulty with beefing up one unit is that it means one has to take from somewhere else. There are always competing interests. The whole area of organised crime presents a huge challenge for us. The challenge for all the specialist units - the Garda national drugs unit, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Garda air support unit - is to provide the type of service we would like to provide. That is why I have affirmed my position with regard to letting the number drop too much below 13,000. This is the space we are in. We have got to get on with it.

I seem to recall that when Mr. Callinan appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, he suggested that the Garda has adequate resources. Does he still feel that is the case, or does he feel further resources are needed in this area?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I still feel we are in a position to provide the type of service we espouse to provide. As I have said, I would not like to see the number drop much further. I do not make any secret of the challenging times we are experiencing.

I would like to ask about one or two other areas. I am concerned that those who go into Garda stations to discuss issues of concern to them are not always afforded sufficient privacy. There have been some improvements in that regard in my own constituency. Can anything more be done? People are often very vulnerable when they approach the Garda desk to ask to see someone. They sometimes find they have to wait for quite some time and, more worryingly, they have to speak about their problems in a relatively public area.

Mr. Martin Callinan

This issue arises from time to time. We would hope it can be dealt with practically. If somebody comes to the counter to report a sensitive matter that needs to be discussed in private, they should be dealt with in that fashion. They should not have to do their business in a waiting area where others are within sight and sound of them. That is the practical way of dealing with such cases. It is not always possible to have a facility adjacent to the reception area where they can be dealt with.

Okay. I have a final question for Mr. Callinan. My constituents who come from less wealthy backgrounds - they may be unemployed, for example - sometimes perceive that they are not treated as fairly as people from more middle-class backgrounds. Does the Garda have any training systems or other procedures in place to ensure its members treat people fairly at all times? I can link this with the issue of community policing, which we have already discussed. Some community gardaí are particularly well adapted to dealing with people from all spheres of the public, but that might not be true right across the board. I ask Mr. Callinan to keep an eye on that and to try to ensure gardaí are able to deal with the public as sympathetically as possible. Obviously, it is in everyone's interests for gardaí to be respected right across society, rather than solely among those of us who may be more privileged than others.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I hope it would always be the case that members of the Garda Síochána treat everyone equally. We spoke earlier about the issue of discretion. There is a need to apply the principles of equality and non-discrimination. Those first principles, if I can use that term, should be of general application when we interact with members of the public. That is how our people are trained. That is what they should be doing. I accept that we are not perfect. People have off-days for different reasons. That is when complaints arise. Generally speaking, that is what should happen. I hope it would happen. I will convey the Deputy's thoughts to my management board when it assembles again shortly.

I thank Mr. Callinan. I would like to put one or two questions to Mr. Enright of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. The question of off-road declarations has been well covered at this stage. The local government fund is relevant in this regard because car tax receipts go into it before they are allocated to the various councils throughout the country. There is a significant discrepancy between the amount of money that is given to each county on a per capita basis. That is understandable because a county like Leitrim will need a great deal more support per head of population than the counties in the Dublin region. South Dublin County Council receives the lowest per capita payment. This has been a matter of ongoing dispute between the council and those responsible for the local government fund. The most comparable county council is Fingal County Council, which received over €3 million more than South Dublin County Council when the 2012 allocation was made. The manner in which these decisions are arrived at is a source of frustration for those of us who study these issues. I can understand why the counties in the Dublin region receive much smaller per capita payments than some of the smaller rural counties. Given that there is a heavy demand for these moneys in the South Dublin County Council area, it is really frustrating that we always seem to come out worse than similar counties when these decisions are made. Like many other areas, our commercial base has been seriously undermined in recent years because of the economic downturn.

Mr. Donal Enright

An equalisation model has been used over the years for the purposes of making local government fund allocations to local authorities. I think it started in 2000. It is based on detailed annual returns from local authorities. It was used up to 2007. The principle of equalisation has continued to be used for general purpose grant allocations since 2008. As the equalisation process continues, the amount is consolidated into the baseline so that the changes made are continued through in future years. This means local authorities will gradually move towards a position of greater equity in the amount of money they have. At a time when funds are tight and things are generally difficult, the process used to make allocations to local authorities must ensure they have the resources they need, compared to each other, to provide a reasonable level of service. That is possibly not what the Deputy-----

Who makes these decisions? It seems to those of us who are mere politicians that they are made by faceless bureaucrats with whom we cannot interact. Perhaps that is an unfair comment.

Mr. Donal Enright

The allocations are ultimately made by the Minister.

That could be described as an evasive answer. I am sure the final decision has to pass the Minister's desk for his signature.

Mr. Donal Enright

I am sorry, Deputy. I do not mean to be evasive.

The Deputy can raise the issue with the Accounting Officer when he attends a meeting of this committee in the near future.

The Minister has to sign off on the recommended allocations.

I appreciate that.

He has the power to change them.

Can Mr. Enright comment on the use that will be made of motor tax after the property tax comes on stream? Is there any clarity on that yet?

Mr. Donal Enright

In 2012, €46.5 million was transferred to the Exchequer. In the current budget year, there is a further increase in motor tax, and there is a commitment and provision in law to transfer up to €150 million from the motor tax fund to the Exchequer. It is used for writing down debt.

Basically, it goes into the general mix.

Mr. Donal Enright

Yes, that decision has been made for 2012 and 2013. What happens thereafter will obviously be a budgetary matter for discussion, I presume by the Cabinet and, ultimately, the Minister for Finance.

The broad sense is that it is moving away from the specific local government area.

Mr. Donal Enright

I gave the information in respect of 2012 and 2013. I do not think I can speculate on what policy might be in place in the future.

I thank Mr. Enright.

I have a couple of questions I forgot to ask earlier. On penalty points, will the report that was issued yesterday go to the Director of Public Prosecutions?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I have no reason to send it. I do not have any recommendations to send it.

Is it not normal for a report of that sort to go to the DPP?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Normally, if it was the case that there was an allegation or evidence of criminality, that would be a matter for the DPP to adjudicate on. As no criminality was found, that is not-----

Who adjudicates on criminality? Is it primarily Mr. Callinan? Does it then go to the DPP for a final decision? Does a report go to the DPP for a decision on criminality?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No. In the normal course of events, it does not matter who is investigating a crime. If an indictable crime needs a direction, the case is usually forwarded through the channels to the superintendent who would send a file to the DPP. It would usually return through that channel. There is interface between investigators. That is the normal course of events if one is seeking a direction as to a charge.

A case like that under discussion would not normally be sent to the DPP.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Not in these particular circumstances, no.

That is because no evidence of criminality has been found, in the opinion of the Garda.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes.

My next question concerns the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission inquiry and informants. Was Mr. Callinan interviewed by those investigating on behalf of the ombudsman?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No, I was not interviewed per se, but I received several lists of detailed questions that required me to have research conducted to provide answers.

Mr. Callinan was in charge of the department at the time. Did he have an operational role?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No. I was the assistant commissioner in charge of the national support services. All the national units were under my wing, such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the drugs unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. Crime and security dealt with the issue of informants, registration and all of that.

Did Mr. Callinan have any role in the Boylan case?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I did not have a role in regard to the registration of informants or anything of that nature.

Mr. Callinan had no role in informants and how gardaí interacted with them at the time.

Mr. Martin Callinan

All of that is done at local management level. May we step outside the case?

Mr. Martin Callinan

It might help to clarify matters. If, for instance, a source is being registered, he or she goes through the usual process. He or she is considered to be a good mark for information etc., and recommendations are made and sent up through the chief superintendent to the assistant commissioner in charge of crime and security who will further assess that. It will then travel back. The assistant commissioner in charge of crime and security is the person who holds the true identities of all of those providing information to us.

Mr. Callinan had no role in what was happening.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Other than documentation that may have passed through, I do not have any primary role in that.

Does he have a secondary role?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I would not have a role in the registration process, no.

I presume he had oversight of it, given the position he was in.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I would describe my role at that time as having a strategic overview of what was happening within the unit, but I did not have a tactical or a specific role in terms of how agents were run, who ran them or anything of that nature.

Did you have any input into what was happening?

Mr. Martin Callinan

In regard to this specific case?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No.

Okay. There was a great controversy about Stepaside station closing, as Mr. Callinan will be aware. I refer to how decisions are made in the case of those closures. Who made the decision to close Stepaside station? Was it Mr. Callinan or the Minister?

Mr. Martin Callinan

All I can do is make a recommendation. It is a matter for the Minister and is a political decision. I will explain my role in this. There was clearly a need to downsize because of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. There is also a need for us to provide for an additional unit in the new rostering arrangements. All of those things came together. There was a need to look at our estate and how we manage it.

I sent down, centrally, a request to regional commanders, the assistant commissioners, who in turn spoke to their chief superintendents and superintendents in an effort to provide a listing of stations that could be closed while still maintaining an appropriate policing service in those areas. That process was completed and a list was provided to me. Based on those recommendations from my senior management team, I forwarded the proposals to the Minister who then made a decision.

It was not really Mr. Callinan's recommendation, rather it was a recommendation from a senior management team.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes. It would be impossible for me sitting at my desk in headquarters to make that type of decision.

Is there any chance we could look at the paperwork?

Mr. Martin Callinan

The paperwork that grounded the basis for the decision?

Mr. Martin Callinan

That is something I could consider. These are internal matters, of course.

I know, but it would be very interesting to know how these decisions are made and to see the paper trail. Could we have a look at that?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I will consider the matter and report back.

Mr. Callinan has an extension to his contract. Is that correct?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Yes. From next August the Government has granted an extension of two years.

Did he apply for it or was it offered to him?

Mr. Martin Callinan

No, an offer was made. I did not make a formal application.

Is Mr Callinan comfortable with that, in light of the fact he gave evidence in a court case against people over 60 years of age getting extensions to contracts?

Mr. Martin Callinan

There are two different issues, to be fair. When a challenge was being brought to the courts to extend the age limit in what was, admittedly, a different time, I was asked to provide evidence because the advice was that someone at a very senior level needed to give it. I was a deputy commissioner at the time. I did not say in evidence at the time that it was my earnest belief - this is all a matter of record and is on the transcript - that 60 years of age was the not appropriate age, rather I said there had to be an age in order to provide for movement within the ranks.

I also thought promotion was a strong motivational factor. It has been the case that those who have recently held the post of Garda Commissioner have been given an extension of service. Regardless of what is the appropriate age, there must be a set age limit for retirement in order that the two principles of creating motivation and opportunity will be catered for.

Yes. I do not share the view on retiring at 60 years, but that is neither here nor there. The Commissioner stated at the time that allowing people to remain would block promotions elsewhere. Is he not doing exactly the same by remaining in his position?

Mr. Martin Callinan

As the head of the service, the Garda Commissioner has a unique role. I presume, however, that the reason I was granted an extension was that there was an age profile gap in terms of a successor. I do not know and do not have the franchise over this. It is the case that the current retirement age of 60 years for the various ranks all the way up to deputy commissioner provides for flexibility and movement within these ranks.

I thank the Commissioner.

There are two final matters with which I would like to deal. I do not intend to discuss the issue relating to firearms and court cases at the time now, but will the Commissioner send on the committee the costs to the State, a note on how matters ended up, indicating if there are still claims outstanding against the State and the State's general exposure?

Mr. Martin Callinan

Sure.

If the Commissioner wishes to comment now, that is fine. However, I am conscious of the time and how long the meeting has lasted.

Mr. Martin Callinan

It might be more appropriate to supply a note to the committee in this instance.

Okay. My second query relates to the imprisonment of people for the non-payment of fines and the cost to which this gives rise for the State. Perhaps it might be more appropriate to allow people to pay fines over a period. What is the Commissioner's opinion? Is he of the view that there should be a legislative response to it? What is the cost to the State of implementing such a costly process? Perhaps a process that is less costly might be put in place.

Mr. Martin Callinan

Again, I am entering into the political arena.

I do not want the Commissioner to do that. What I am really inquiring about is the numbers. In effect, the Commissioner is stating the answer to my question lies in the introduction of new legislation in respect of the Courts Service and how it processes payments. The other question which arises relates to the number of people who are imprisoned for the non-payment of fines and the number who are jailed not because they will not pay but because they cannot do so. Is there a figure and a cost available in that regard?

Mr. Martin Callinan

I would not have those figures. I imagine the Courts Service would have them.

That is fine. I now know where to direct the query.

The Commissioner will be glad to hear that we are finished for today. I will adjourn proceedings until Thursday next at 10 a.m. I thank the witnesses for attending.

Mr. Martin Callinan

I thank the Chairman.

The witnesses withdrew.
The committee adjourned at 2.25 p.m. until 10 a.m. on Thursday, 23 May 2013.