Judge angry as secret rules on speed limits kept from him
Published 08/03/2014 | 02:30
A Judge threw out three speeding cases and criticised the "very tawdry approach" taken by workers bringing the private 'GoSafe' speed camera prosecutions to court.
District Court Judge Patrick Durcan yesterday moved to strike out three prosecutions of motorists allegedly caught speeding by the network of vans.
Judge Durcan described as "absolutely appalling" the failure of two prosecutors taking the cases on behalf of the private consortium to appear before Ennis District Court.
He was left irate after a GoSafe official refused to tell him the extent a driver has to exceed speed limits before they will begin a prosecution – in this instance the motorist was allegedly 9km over the limit.
The GoSafe consortium secured the €80m Garda Siochana contract to operate the network of speed camera vans in 2009. The consortium's most recent accounts show it had operating profits of almost €50,000 a week in 2012.
Since then it moved to place the scale of its profits beyond public scrutiny by going unlimited, which removes the requirement to file annual accounts.
On average, the GoSafe vans detect one speeding motorist per hour working out at 72,000 detections per annum as it is contracted to provide 6,000 hours per month.
The GoSafe cameras operate on sections of road which have a history of collisions where speed was a contributory factor. The areas where they operate are on the garda website.
The GoSafe-connected prosecutions appear on the court list under Inspector John McDonald, who is responsible for the fixed-charge processing unit in Thurles. Yesterday, Insp McDonald – who wasn't in court – was prosecuting Francis Derwin of Auburn, Athlone, Co Westmeath.
Go Safe official Christopher Quinn told the court that Mr Derwin was driving at 89km per hour in a 80km zone when detected at Drumana, Crusheen on August 25 last.
Judge Durcan said: "Tell me, Mr Quinn, at what level of excess of the speed limit do you commence prosecution?"
In response, Mr Quinn said: "I am not supposed to disclose that, your honour." In reply, Judge Durcan said: "Sorry, you are in court and you are on oath and if that is your attitude I am striking out the prosecution."
Addressing Insp Tom Kennedy of Ennis Garda Station, Judge Durcan said: "Insp Kennedy, you might convey to Insp McDonald that if a witness is asked a question, a witness should answer it."
He said: "Again, it is further indicative of the need for this traffic control unit to be properly trained and to develop a level of behaviour in the courts which is not forthcoming in my experience."
Judge Durcan added it is "one issue after another". "The sooner Insp McDonald sits down, goes back to school and learns a little bit more about how cases are prepared for court, the better".
Judge Durcan said: "This team was specially set up and today you have two prosecutors who didn't turn up and the third who refused to answer a question. It is absolutely appalling."
The judge said the gardai did a very good job in relation to traffic matters and were being "very unfairly tarnished by virtue of the very tawdry approach by Insp McDonald and his team".