Wednesday 26 October 2016

Courts criticised by safety group over penalty points lapses

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Published 25/04/2015 | 02:30

A traffic garda enforces the speed limit
A traffic garda enforces the speed limit

A ROAD safety group report has criticised the district courts for failing to ensure that motorists convicted of traffic offences have points applied to their driving licences.

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The report by PARC (Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Care on our Roads) highlighted alleged failings by both the judiciary and court staff.

The group says it has based its criticisms on information gathered from observing 26 district court sitting across nine counties between September 2014 and March of this year.

Its findings have been sent to the Road Safety Authority and the President of the District Court, Rosemary Horgan.

The group has also written to each district judge expressing concern at a "lack of consistency" in the application of road traffic laws.

One of the group's main concerns is that many motorists are escaping points by failing to hand over their licences in court, which is required by law.

The group, made up of people whose family members were killed or seriously injured on the roads, found:

• Four out of every five motorists convicted of road traffic offences at those sittings did not have their licence numbers recorded by the court clerk;

• 96pc of drivers who were disqualified in court were not requested to produce their licence for the recording of their licence number;

• In only one case observed did a judge decide not to go ahead with a case until the defendant produced their licence;

• Inappropriate use of the court poor box continues, with drivers able to avoid penalty points by making a donation.

The report said PARC had received assurances from the Courts Service last October that notices were posted in all courtrooms reminding drivers to produce their licence.

However, it said several courts visited by the group failed to display such notices.

The report also said: "We note that many courts are still not making an announcement at the beginning of court regarding the requirement for drivers to produce their licence and many are not recording licence numbers on conviction."

In a letter to each judge, PARC chairperson Susan Gray said that while the group understood that the independence of the judiciary was sacrosanct, it was hopeful judges would see the need for a common administration in all district courts.

"In the case of a driver being disqualified by the court it is essential that the licence number is recorded," she wrote.

"If the licence is not produced it is our contention that the case should be adjourned to allow the driver to produce their licence."

Irish Independent

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