herald

Friday 18 August 2017

Less gardai is 'costing lives' on our roads

PJ Stone,General Secretary of the GRA
PJ Stone,General Secretary of the GRA

Rank and file gardai are waring that a reduction in the force's numbers is "most likely" costing lives on the roads.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has also accused a reticent management of not implementing the law to protect garda drivers, who incur penalty points as a result of responding rapidly to a report of a serious incident.

The plight of the garda drivers in the wake of the controversy over cancelling penalty points has been raised by rank and file union leader, PJ Stone.

The strength of the Garda Traffic Corps has been reduced by around a quarter from peak figures as a result of the five-year garda recruitment ban, which ended last autumn,

Mr Stone, who is general secretary of the GRA, said the introduction of penalty points had most likely saved lives and that was common sense.

But there was a contradiction in policy, which led to the traffic policing numbers being cut and this, most likely, had cost lives.

The reduction put increased pressure on existing members and led to patrol cars being stretched to beyond their mileage limits as gardai coped with available resources, he said.

Mr Stone argued that it was now time to draw the line under the penalty point investigation before policing suffered.

"Accountability of garda drivers has now reached a tipping point where many of our first responders have to make blind decisions on how urgent a call is - to balance accountability with effectiveness - to protect their personal driving licences.

"If a driver incurs penalty points as a response to actions to duty, then by law the garda should be exempt when the public is put at risk. But this is not the reality", Mr Stone said.

"A reticent garda management now cannot routinely remove the blemish and the repercussions to the driver's licence. In other words, there is a reluctance to implement the protection that gardai are entitled to, in section of 87 of the 2010 Act", he added.

Mr Stone said gardai were duty-bound to put their lives between danger and the public, so if a member of the public was in jeopardy, one would expect the garda to make every effort to get to the scene as quickly as possible.

"Now we have a situation where those gardai will be retrospectively judged to decide whether their exceeding of the speed limit was appropriate.

"But no one is accounting for the perception of danger at the time the decision was taken".

He pointed out that insurance companies were now unfairly labelling all gardai in the high risk category.

He asked if garda drivers should now observe the speed limits and traffic signals, to be sure of avoiding penalty points, despite the statutory exemption for on-duty gardai.

As an alternative, he suggested that the authorities consider issuing a garda-specific driving licences for all members of the force while on duty.

hnews@herald.ie

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