Friday 20 September 2019

Thousands of penalty points may be wiped out as law is challenged

High Court battle: Lawyers claim that sections of the law are unconstitutional. Stock picture
High Court battle: Lawyers claim that sections of the law are unconstitutional. Stock picture

Ray Managh

Thousands of penalty points and convictions for speeding could be wiped out if a High Court challenge to legislation succeeds.

Dublin man Liam Kearney was convicted, fined and had five penalty points added to his driving licence for a speeding offence. But his lawyers told a High Court judge that parts of the 2010 Road Traffic Act were unconstitutional.

Mr Kearney, of Roebuck Castle, Clonskeagh, has brought the challenge after being convicted in the District Court for speeding on September 19, 2017. He lost an appeal to the Dublin Circuit Court last month but had the fine reduced from €400 to €80.

Barrister Brendan Hennessy, counsel for Mr Kearney, told Mr Justice Seamus Noonan his client had not received the initial fixed charge notice which would have allowed him time to pay any fine, thereby avoiding any prosecution. He accepted Mr Kearney had received a summons with the second fixed charge notice.

The second fixed charge notice said that if an amount 100pc greater than the original fixed charge were paid, the prosecution would be discontinued.

Mr Hennessy said that, as a result of not having received the initial fixed charge notice, his client had been denied the chance to pay a lower charge and avoid a conviction. He felt he was being prejudiced through no fault of his own.

Mr Hennessy, who appeared with John Shanley Solicitors, told the court that an ex-parte application seeking to quash the Circuit Court conviction was being brought before the High Court.

Mr Hennessy told Judge Noonan that because Mr Kearney did not receive the original fixed charge notice a prosecution should not have been initiated.

Despite this, the Circuit Court was obliged under sections of the 2010 Road Traffic Act to convict Mr Kearney and that part of the Act that was being challenged was incompatible with provisions of the Constitution.

Counsel said a section of the act offended the principles of fairness, rationality and proportionality. Defendants charged with the same offence may receive different penalties owing to circumstances outside their control, he said.

In his proceedings against the DPP, the Justice Minister and the Attorney General, Mr Kearney seeks an order quashing his conviction.

He also seeks declarations that certain sections of the 2010 Road Traffic Act are invalid having regard to Articles 38 and 40 of the Irish Constitution.

Permission to bring a challenge by way of judicial review was granted by Judge Noonan and the matter was adjourned until November.

Irish Independent

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