Friday 20 September 2019

Speeding drivers escape court appearance as summons not served

Gardaí probe as nearly half of all cases thrown out

Almost half of summonses for speeding motorists to appear in court were not served in the past two years
Almost half of summonses for speeding motorists to appear in court were not served in the past two years
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Almost half of summonses for speeding motorists to appear in court were not served in the past two years, shock new figures reveal.

The scale of the problem is so big that Garda management has been forced to set up a group to examine the issue.

The force says several issues, including inaccurate address information, are contributing to the issue.

Courts Service data shows that of 66,800 speeding cases listed in the courts between January 2015 and October 2016, some 30,600 - or 45.8pc -were struck out as summonses were never served on the defendants.

The problem was most acute in the Manorhamilton area in Co Leitrim, where 84 out of 99 summonses were not served.

In Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, 248 out of 391 summonses - some 63pc - went unserved.

Other summons service 'blackspots' included Killarney, Co Kerry, where 558 of 910 summonses went unserved, and Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, where 24 out of 39 summonses were not served.

At county level, the issue was most prevalent in Monaghan and Kerry, where 61pc and 59pc of summons respectively were not served.

The best performing county was Wexford, but even there 30pc of summonses went unserved.

The data on non-served summons was released by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald following questions from Independent TD Tommy Broughan.

Ms Fitzgerald said her officials were seeking clarification on the "significant percentage" of cases being struck out for non-service.

She revealed a working group had been set up in An Garda Síochána to examine how the service rate can be improved and to monitor the level of service around the country.

Ms Fitzgerald said there were challenges to serving summonses in certain circumstances.

These included situations where there was "inaccurate address data, persons moving address, or living in multi occupancy dwellings or other settings which make service difficult".

"In addition, certain persons will take steps to evade service. Similar difficulties are experienced by many other police forces," she added.

The PARC Road Safety Group, which has carried out an analysis of the data, said urgent action was needed as the non-service rate was inexplicably high.

Other Courts Service data released by Ms Fitzgerald indicated many motorists who were convicted of speeding offences may have avoided penalty points by not producing their licence in court.

Although it is an offence to not to produce your licence, it has not been regularly enforced and there have been difficulties securing prosecutions.

A new Road Traffic Bill is expected to include measures to ensure drivers produce their licences in court, while the wording of summonses is to be changed so gardaí can prosecute those who fail to produce their licence.

In counties such as Sligo and Kildare, the rate of recording of licence numbers in court between January 2015 and October 2016 was just 22pc.

However, this does not mean everyone who failed to produce a licence escaped penalty points.

All convictions for penalty points offences, whether the driver licence number is produced in court or not, are provided electronically to the Transport Department.

Where a driving licence number is not provided, the Road Safety Authority undertakes a matching exercise to match the conviction with a specific driving licence.

Matching takes place on the National Vehicle Driver File, where other available information makes this possible.

Irish Independent

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