Monday 5 December 2016

Over 100 drivers able to avoid penalty points by paying into 'banned' poor box

Published 17/11/2016 | 02:30

More than 100 motorists have been able to avoid penalty points for speeding this year by making a contribution to a court poor box – despite legislation banning the practice. Photo: Mark Condren
More than 100 motorists have been able to avoid penalty points for speeding this year by making a contribution to a court poor box – despite legislation banning the practice. Photo: Mark Condren

More than 100 motorists have been able to avoid penalty points for speeding this year by making a contribution to a court poor box - despite legislation banning the practice.

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Use of the poor box for penalty point offences has been prohibited since 2011 under the Road Traffic Act 2010 and the law was subsequently re- inforced by a High Court ruling.

However, new figures show that while the practice has declined significantly since then in cases involving penalty points, it is still being allowed by judges in certain courts in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Waterford, Tipperary and Laois.

While there is no specific provision in law for a poor box, it evolved over the years from the common law jurisdiction enjoyed by judges to exercise discretion in sentencing.

Normally it is applied for minor cases, allowing the offender to make a donation in lieu of a conviction. But data released to Independent TD Tommy Broughan showed it has been used in speeding cases on 104 occasions so far this year.

The practice was most prevalent at Dungarvan District Court, where 44 out of 426 speeding cases listed this year ended up with a donation being made to the poor box.

There were also 35 instances where it was used in speeding cases at district courts in Dublin.

Isolated cases were also recorded in Bandon, Co Cork; Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel in Co Tipperary; Lismore, Co Waterford; Ballinasloe, Tuam and Loughrea in Co Galway; and Portlaoise in Co Laois.

However, the data showed a huge year-on-year decline in the use of the poor box for speeding offences. In comparison, there were 556 such cases in 2015.

Mr Broughan said it was "disappointing the side was being let down by Dungarvan and the Dublin Metropolitan District".

"It is clearly illegal since the 2010 Road Traffic Act and judges shouldn't be doing it," he said.

The PARC road safety campaign group's chairperson, Susan Gray, welcomed the decline but questioned why the ban on the use of the poor box for penalty point offences was not observed in all courts.

The group will mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims with a ceremony this Sunday in Fermoy, Co Cork.

Meanwhile, the figures also showed a huge amount of speeding cases were struck out this year after summons were not served. Some 13,964 out of 29,404 cases listed were not prosecuted for this reason.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said her officials were seeking clarification from the Courts Service as to the reason why such a significant percentage of cases were struck out.

The data also showed large numbers of motorists were still failing to produce their licences in court so points could be attached to them.

Irish Independent

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