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Sunday 17 December 2017

Almost 700 are taken to court for dodging fares

Some 174 people were prosecuted for fare evasions on the Luas.
Some 174 people were prosecuted for fare evasions on the Luas.

Conor Gallagher and Dearbhail McDonald

Almost 700 people were prosecuted for dodging fares and using fraudulent travel passes on public transport last year.

New figures from the Courts Service also reveal that 108 parents were prosecuted for not sending their children to school and 422 people were prosecuted by the Department of Social Protection for alleged social welfare fraud.

It is the first time that the Courts Service has released data for prosecution rates by agencies other than the Director of Public Prosecutions or gardai.

An Post was responsible for the vast majority of non-garda or DPP cases, prosecuting 14,307 people for not paying their TV licence fee. This was up from 11,730 people 2012.

Irish Rail prosecuted 170 people last year and 142 were brought to court by Dublin Bus.

Veoila Transport, the company that operates the LUAS, prosecuted some 174 people and CIE - which includes Irish Rail, Bus Eireann, Dublin Bus as well as CIE Tours - prosecuted 251 defendants.

The prosecutions by An Post and transport bodies were among nearly 40,000 criminal prosecutions by 135 non-garda bodies last year. Some 411 people were sent to prison for failing to pay their TV licence in 2013, compared to 272 for 2012.

An Post insisted that prosecution was "a last resort" and said that the surge in prosecutions "probably reflects the effects of the economic downturn".

Criminal

"The emphasis is on giving licence holders a range of options and opportunities to pay or renew their licence," said a spokesperson. "We have a range of payment options available, this includes direct debit monthly and quarterly payments and savings stamps purchased in the local post office. TV licences can also be purchased or renewed online".

Ireland's system of prosecution allows a vast range of public and private bodies to initiate criminal prosecutions, including county councillors, utilities, and local organisations.

These bodies prosecute mainly in the District Court.

Local councils - who bring charges mostly in respect of illegal parking, littering and planning offences - were among some of the busiest non-garda prosecutors last year. Cork City Council brought some 3,274 cases compared to 3,227 in Limerick, with only 337 cases brought by Dublin City Council.

The Revenue Commissioners, one of the most active agencies bringing court actions, saw its prosecutions drop by almost a third to 2,370 cases.

Last year, there were 39,280 non-garda prosecutions involving 37,275 defendants.

One of the more unusual prosecutions was brought by the Office of the Director of Legal Metrology, which regulates weights and measures.

It brought a single prosecution in 2012 against a co-operative which had incorrectly calibrated a weigh bridge.

They were fined €3,800.

Irish Independent

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