Gardaí to check cars with new handheld devices

Garda HQ is planning to introduce “widescale” deployment next year of handheld devices to enable gardaí on the roadside to check if a driver is disqualified.

However, the plan is dependent on the willingness of the Government to provide additional funding to implement the plan, given the level of IT costs associated with it.

The development follows a jury recommendation in the inquest last week of a jogger killed in a hit-and-run by a disqualified driver for a rollout of such devices.

Karl Robertson, aged 28, from Kilmore, north Dublin, was fatally injured when he was struck by a van driven by Patrick Morgan in nearby Artane on March 8 1997.

Morgan, who was given a five-year sentence last May for dangerous driving causing death, had three driving bans at the time.

Gardaí have no way when stopping drivers to instantly check their record at the roadside. The Robertson family called on the ministers of justice and health to extend a trial of handheld devices with gardaí in Limerick to all traffic gardaí.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, An Garda Síochána said that the pilot in Limerick has been operational now for over six months.

It said 50 members have been provided with a fully secure operational smartphone with a number of policing apps, including a new garda traffic app and secure garda email app.

The traffic app gives members access vehicle data and driver licence data on the Garda Pulse computer system.

The vehicle data includes: vehicle warnings; make, model, year, chassis number current owner; motor tax status and vehicle intelligence catalogue. Driver licence data includes driver name, address and date of birth as well as licence status — including if driver is disqualified by court order or penalty points or if the licence of the dead person is being used.

The statement said the pilot has been extended for three months to test other functions: “These additional features provide the user with the ability to electronically scan number plates and license documents having to do data entry.”

It added: “The traffic apps have proved very useful in terms of traffic stops and ad-hoc queries where the vehicle and driver lookups have direct [audited] lookup to real-time Pulse data.”

It said a report and evaluation was “currently at an advanced stage and due for sign off in the coming weeks”.

The garda statement said: “The report has concluded while mobility is a huge step forward for the organisation in terms of its ability to use data while on the move, there will be an understandable overhead in ICT and supporting functions that will have to be addressed if the project scales to 15,000 devices.”

It said a business case had been submitted to the department of public expenditure and the department of justice of the years 2019-2020 and the review of that case was due in early September.

“Following sign off on the business case — it is proposed to draw on tenders from the OGP [Office of Government Procurement] to have a wide scale deployment in 2019,” it said.

The Department of Justice said the Garda evaluation report was due in the coming weeks.

It said the State had earmarked €342m in Government funding to Garda ICT.


By Cormac O'Keeffe
Security Correspondent

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