Speeding fine system is bureaucracy gone mad, claims judge
Published 17/07/2014 | 02:30
A JUDGE branded the process used by gardai to issue speeding fines as "bureaucracy gone mad" and said that courts have unfairly been targeted for criticism.
Judge James McNulty made the comments having ordered the inspector responsible for overseeing fixed charge penalty notices to appear in Macroom District Court to explain why a retired schoolteacher was prosecuted for not paying a speeding fine – having attempted to do so twice without success.
"The district courts are getting it in the neck, and are getting some inappropriate criticism for dealing with the systemic failures that are arising from speeding fines. It is quite inappropriate and unfair," Judge McNulty said, referring to comments which were made by then Transport Minister Leo Varadkar last December.
He was speaking in the case of Timothy Doherty (63), of Inniskeane, Co Cork, whose first attempt to pay the €80 fine he received for speeding on the N22 Cork-Killarney road on November 16, 2013, was rejected.
Mr Doherty told the court this was because he did not sign his middle name, as it appears on his driving licence, on the form that accompanied his cheque.
His second attempt to pay the fine, which was increased to €120, also failed.
Mr Doherty had sent the original cheque for €80 with a second cheque for €40 but was told he could not use two cheques to pay the fine.
Judge McNulty adjourned the matter to yesterday's sitting of Macroom District Court to allow Garda Inspector John McDonald, who heads up the fixed charge processing unit in Thurles, to explain why Mr Doherty's attempts to pay had been "frustrated by bureaucracy".
Insp McDonald told the court that upon receiving legal advice, An Garda Siochana had instructed BillPay, the company hired to handle the payment of speeding fines, to only accept payments in the full name as they appear on the licence.
He said that payments cannot be accepted from more than one cheque, because if one cheque were not to clear it would result in the part-payment of a fine, which is not allowed under the fixed charge penalty system.
The judge described the situation as "bureaucracy gone mad" and said that three private companies are now involved in the issuing of speeding fines – GoSafe which is the operator of the detection vans, TICo, the mailing company that posts the fines, and BillPay, which handles the fine.
Judge McNulty struck out the case against Mr Doherty, and said it was the court's role to protect citizens from any breach of their constitutional rights. He said "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. What that means is that the Sabbath was made for man to worship, not the other way around. Likewise, I would have thought that the system was here to serve the people, not that the people serve the system."