Thursday, February 19, 2009
Dictionary helps crack case of notorious Polish serial offender
RUADHÁN Mac CORMAIC, Migration Correspondent
HE WAS one of Ireland’s most reckless drivers, a serial offender who crossed the country wantonly piling up dozens of speeding fines and parking tickets while somehow managing to elude the law.
So effective was his modus operandi of giving a different address each time he was caught that by June 2007 there were more than 50 separate entries under his name, Prawo Jazdy, in the Garda Pulse system. And still not a single conviction.
In the end, the vital clue to his identity lay not with Interpol or the fingerprint database but in the pages of a Polish-English dictionary. Prawo jazdy means driving licence.
In a letter dated June 17th, 2007, an officer from the Garda traffic division wrote that it had come to his attention that members inspecting Polish driving licences were noting Prawo Jazdy as the licence holder’s name.
“Prawo Jazdy is actually the Polish for driving licence and not the first and surname on the licence,” he wrote.
“Having noticed this I decided to check on Pulse and see how many members have made this mistake. It is quiet [sic] embarrassing to see that the system has created Prawo Jazdy as a person with over 50 identities.
“He can also be found on the Fixed Charge Processing System as well. This mistake needs to be rectified immediately and a memo sent to the members concerned. I also think that Garda Information Service Centre [in] Castlebar should be notified and some kind of alert put on these two words.”
In Poland, a booklet-type licence such as the one used in the Republic was phased out in 2004 and replaced with a pink, credit card-sized licence with an EU flag, the words Prawo Jazdy in the top right corner with (in admittedly smaller type) the holder’s name and personal details.
A Garda source confirmed that the issue of Polish licences being misread had arisen in 2007, but said the errors were spotted quickly and the problem had now been resolved.
It was not clear whether the confusion was due to licences simply being misread or officers being misled by their holders, he added.
To weed out any other inanimate foreign offenders who might be lurking in the digital depths, the Pulse system has since been updated, with a new section advising officers of the layout of foreign driving licences.
Notices were also sent to Garda stations alerting them to the error.
Expect the recidivist Mrs Library Card from the Czech Republic to have her cover blown.
It would almost be funny if it wasn't so serious.