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Drug drivers may be released due to unavailable doctors

Doctors are unavailable to carry out blood tests on drug drivers and staff retention are among the issues facing An Garda Síochána, according to a report by the Policing Authority (PA).

The latest evaluation of the force’s performance by the Policing Authority said suspects of drink or drug driving may be released without charge due to a lack of available doctors to carry out blood tests.

The Assessment of Policing Performance 2023 report refers to concerns raised from some members of An Garda Síochána who, following a roadside test and arrest, must have a doctor carry out a blood test.

This is to confirm the presence of drugs or alcohol and is required in order to press charges.

However, the Policing Authority found there is a “widespread challenge in accessing doctors in a timely manner” and therefore, suspects are released without charge after a number of hours without a test.

There were approximately 32,000 roadside drug testing devices issued to gardaí last year.

Recruitment of staff

The impact of the recruitment and retention of both rank and file, and garda staff on everyday policing is also highlighted in the report.

There are currently 900 garda staff who have formally registered their interest in transfers through the civil service mobility system.

The report calls for engagement with the relevant departments to address the issues (File image)

The report suggests this is due to concern among staff that the new Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill 2024 will classify garda staff as public servants of An Garda Síochána, rather than civil servants.

Although the report states there are ongoing discussions about this, it has led to uncertainty among staff and therefore, many wish to leave.

The report calls for engagement with the relevant departments to address any issues and concerns staff might have.

Garda staff leaving the workforce is most notably having an impact on the ability of the wider functions of the service, in areas including finance and IT.

It also threatens to reverse a project that saw garda officers released from back-office functions to front line policing.

The recruitment and retention of garda members is still being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic closure of Templemore training college.

The report anticipates that the numbers of graduations will increase overall but that the rise of retirements and resignations will result in a net increase per year of under 500.

The issue of recruitment and retention was also raised at the Garda Representative Association conference which under way in Co Mayo.

The report has identified major achievements by An Garda Síochána in 2023 in disrupting organised crime, improving garda information and technology, and protecting the vulnerable.

Chairperson Dr Elaine Byrne BL said that the Policing Authority said this assessment “highlights why collaboration between An Garda Síochána, wider public services and communities is vital”.

She said people want An Garda Síochána to “prevent and detect crime but also to ensure that people, especially the most vulnerable, are protected”.


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