Garda body requests urgent meeting with Commissioner Drew Harris over penalty points ‘discretion’ comments
20th October 2021
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) is requesting an urgent meeting with the Garda Commissioner following his comments regarding the ongoing issue of the right of a member of An Garda Síochána to use discretion while dealing with the public.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris yesterday defended an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption by members of the Limerick Garda Division after hearing a Government TD claim that it “is tearing many lives apart”.
When questioned by Fianna Fáil Clare TD Cathal Crowe on the right of gardaí to use discretion at yesterday’s Joint Policing Committee meeting in Ennis, Co Clare, Commissioner Harris said: “The difficulty is the difference between discretion and preference. I would say to every member of An Garda Síochána that properly exercising discretion is available to you, but make sure it is not preference. Preference is unfair – everyone must be treated equally before the law.”
At the meeting, Deputy Crowe told Commissioner Harris that he has to move the investigation on “and needs to engage with this more effectively”.
Deputy Crowe said eight members of the force in Limerick have been suspended as part of an investigation by the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (GNBCI) “concerning a charge of corruption against many in the Limerick Garda Division”.
He claimed that 60 gardaí in Limerick are being investigated concerning the alleged ‘squaring off’ of fixed charge penalty notices.
Deputy Crowe told the meeting that the probe “encompasses too many people and is harrowing for the families involved”.
The body representing rank-and-file gardaí says it is extremely concerned with the Commissioner’s response to the concerns raised by the TD.
GRA general secretary Philip McAnenly issued a statement on the matter tonight.
“This is a new departure from current guidelines and advice. The introduction of the phrase ‘preference’ in policing is unclear and wholly unacceptable and our members need immediate clarity on the Commissioner’s comments and his clear definition of the term ‘preference’ in relation to the use of garda discretion,” Mr McAnenly said.
“Our President, Frank Thornton, has already contacted Commissioner Harris last June requesting a meeting on these issues and related concerns and this was request was declined by the Garda Commissioner.
“We now believe that Commissioner Harris’ comments regarding somehow drawing the line between the use of discretion and ‘preference’ are vague, and has led to confusion among our members,” he added.