Thursday 17 August 2017

Woman who made over 300 unpaid journeys on M50 fined €7k as court rejects 'clone' claims

The M50 Dublin
The M50 Dublin

Tom Tuite

A MOTORIST who claimed a clone of her car was responsible for more than 300 unpaid journeys on the M50 has been fined €7,000.

Lyndsey Morgan from Brookhaven Park, Dublin 15, had pleaded not guilty to five sample counts of failing to pay the €3.10 motorway charge on dates in September last year.

However, a witness from eFlow, the company that operates the system, said Morgan’s ’01-reg Peugeot made 339 passages on the barrier-free motorway but only 29 toll payments were made.

Judge John Brennan at Dublin District Court did not accept her claims that a replica of her car was responsible and he said he was satisfied that the mother-of-one had attempted to mislead the court. However, he spared her a jail sentence and maximum fines that could have run to €25,000.

The court heard about 800 letters were sent to her in relation to the unpaid tolls but she claimed she did not get them.

The prosecution was brought by the National Roads Authority (NRA).

Downloaded images of the car passing the toll were brought to court and she was prosecuted because she was the registered owner, the judge was told. She claimed she asked an NRA representative if it was possible that someone had "cloned" her car registration number and “put it on the exact same type of car”.

She was shown the images but denied it was her driving the car as one picture was taken at 3am when she said she is normally in bed.

In cross-examination she agreed with Thomas Rice BL (instructed by Pierse Fitzgibbon Solicitors) that she had a red Peugeot. When questioned by the judge she replied: “I asked can a car be cloned, every day it happens”.

Counsel asked her who was driving and she answered “nobody is driving my car”.

The barrister suggested to her that if her car had been cloned she would be going to the gardai. “I will go to the police now, someone is driving a car that is the exact same as mine,” she replied.

In relation to the approximately 800 letters eFlow sent her about the unpaid tolls she claimed she did not receive any of them. The judge heard she was eventually served with the court summons by a private investigator after she allegedly refused to accept a registered letter.

She also said that she found the case stressful and she had offered to settle with the NRA.

Convicting her, Judge Brennan said he should be giving her a more severe fine but he had to take into consideration the circumstances of the woman who is in receipt of the one parent family social welfare payment. In addition to fines totalling €7,000, he also ordered her to pay €750 in prosecution costs.

The judge also stipulated that she would have 12 months to pay.

The standard M50 toll for an unregistered car is €3.10 and must be paid before 8pm the following day or else there is a €3.00 penalty for having missed the deadline. Motorists have 14 days from the date of issue to pay for the journey and the initial penalty; otherwise a further penalty of €41 is applied. After a further 56 days there is an additional penalty charge of €103 and if it remains unpaid legal proceedings follow with the possibility of a court fine of up to €5,000 as well as a jail term of six-months, or both, per offence.

The registered owner of a vehicle is responsible even if they were not driving the vehicle.

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