Friday 23 August 2019

It's no secret that motorists can use 'licence loophole'

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The apparent "loophole" through which some drivers have attempted to avoid penalty points simply by not providing their driving licence number to the courts has been known to the authorities for some time.

Although legislation has existed to prosecute such people, no prosecutions have been mounted to date.

Action has now been pledged by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald following a sustained campaign to highlight the issue by campaigners such as Susan Gray of the PARC road safety group.

That group has compiled two reports in the past two years identifying alleged failings in this area.

The most recent, completed in April, was based on observations on the prosecution of road traffic cases in 26 district courts across nine counties between September 2014 and March of this year.

It found that four out of every five motorists convicted of road traffic offences at those sittings did not have their licence numbers recorded by the court clerk.

In only one case observed did a judge decide not to go ahead with a case until the defendant produced their licence.

The report also highlighted the inappropriate use of the court poor box, with drivers able to avoid penalty points by making a donation.

In a statement, An Garda Siochána acknowledged the issue of drivers not producing licences had been identified previously by internal and external reports.

It said as a result of such reports a Criminal Justice Working Group was set up, under the co-chairmanship of the Department of Justice and the Department of Transport. Apart from the promised Garda clampdown, other measures are also under consideration by the working group.

These include a proposal to require car owners to provide licence details when they first purchase a car or transfer ownership of a car. This would always link a car with its driver.

The Courts Service acknowledged there had been "difficulties in the past" with easily gathering driver licence details, but said it was working to ensure penalty points were associated with licences "wherever possible".

Irish Independent

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