Penalty point loophole to be shut by end of year
A LOOPHOLE in enforcement of the law that allows convicted motorists to escape penalty points will be closed by the end of the year, the head of the Courts Service has promised.
The pledge comes as new figures reveal just a third of the 31,664 drivers convicted of the motoring offences in court since the beginning of 2013 had points recorded on their licence.
The rest escaped penalty points by failing to produce their licence to gardai or in court.
Although failure to produce a licence has been an offence since 2011, carrying a fine of up to €2,000 or up to three months in jail, the law has not been properly enforced – as court officials have not been passing details of motorists to gardai so they can be prosecuted.
However, Courts Service chief executive Brendan Ryan has now told the Dail's spending watchdog it is working out a plan with gardai so that drivers who fail to produce their licences in court can be pursued.
He said officials would be passing the required information to gardai in future.
"It is anticipated that it should be possible to commence prosecutions before the end of the year," said Mr Ryan.
The pledge was made in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee following criticism of the courts in a report given to the spending watchdog by the PARC road safety group. That report, based on an analysis of 13 district court sittings in April and May, confirmed considerable existing anecdotal evidence that the law was not being enforced.
The report detailed how in a number of courts motorists were not even asked to provide their licence.
Mr Ryan said he could not comment on "any administration of justice aspects included in the document".
However, he said that in two court venues "an oversight" had led to officials failing to request licences from motorists appearing on summonses.
Mr Ryan said officials at a third court venue had been written to and reminded of the requirement to request motorists hand in their licences to the court.
Figures supplied by Mr Ryan to the committee show that of 31,664 motorists convicted of penalty points offences between January 2013 and June of this year, just 10,510 had their driving licence numbers recorded so penalty points could be applied.
Despite the pledge that details of non-compliant motorists would be passed on to gardai, Mr Ryan was highly critical of the law requiring court officials to record driving licence numbers, describing it as "ineffective".
He said there were "specific difficulties associated with collecting driving licence numbers while business is being conducted within the courtroom".
These problems had been "specifically pointed out" to the Department of Transport and the Road Safety Authority "over the years", he said.
Mr Ryan said the Courts Service had long advocated a system where driving licence numbers would be recorded at the "point of detection or when a summons is being applied".
The proposal is currently being examined by an inter-departmental working group.