Penalty points loophole remains open as licence cases dismissed
Efforts to close off a loophole that has allowed more than 20,000 motorists to dodge penalty points have fallen at the first hurdle.
A judge dismissed the first raft of cases being taken against motorists who failed to produced their driving licences in court when convicted of a penalty points offence.
Those prosecutions were taken on foot of a crackdown ordered by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, after it had emerged that more than 20,000 motorists had avoided receiving penalty points in a 15-month period simply by not bringing their licences to court.
Failure to produce the licence in court has long been an offence, punishable by fines of up to €2,000 and up to three months in prison.
However, gardaí began enforcing this law only in June.
The first batch of cases against such drivers reached Dublin District Court yesterday. But they were thrown out by a judge, who branded the prosecutions "fundamentally flawed".
The 21 motorists appeared on summons for the offence under Section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 for not producing their licences for the purpose of having their numbers recorded so that they could be awarded penalty points.
The drivers involved had already been convicted of motoring offences, including speeding and holding a mobile phone while driving.
At the court yesterday, five cases were withdrawn by the State and Judge Marie Keane dismissed the remaining prosecutions. She did this because summonses issued to the defendants did not tell them it was a criminal offence not to produce their licence in court.
They were entitled to know the consequences that flow from not having produced their licence, she held.
Óisín Clarke BL represented several of the 21 defendants. He pointed out that the legislation stated the defendant must bring their driver's licence, learner's permit or a copy of them to the proceedings and produce them to the court registrar.
However, the summonses served on them just had a warning that they were obliged to bring their licences but they did not indicate the consequences of failing to produce them in court. Mr Clarke argued that the defendants had complied with the summonses insofar as they had their licences with them.
Judge Keane said the legislation was unwieldy and had been amended in a piecemeal fashion. Dismissing the cases, she said the summonses were "fundamentally flawed" because a person who comes before the court is entitled to know the consequences that flow from not having produced their licence.
However, the decision does not have an impact on the defendants' convictions for speeding and holding a phone while driving.