Sunday 18 March 2018

Doubts over plan to quash penalty points

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Major doubts have been cast over the Garda plan to quash the convictions and penalty points of 14,700 motorists who were prosecuted in error for road traffic offences.

Gardaí pledged to appeal the convictions on behalf of the affected motorists after it was found they were prosecuted without first being issued with fixed-charge penalty notices.

However, one of the country's leading criminal defence law firms, Michael J Staines & Co, says it believes it is not legally possible for gardaí to appeal the cases.

In a notice to clients, the firm said it could not see under what circumstances An Garda Síochána has a legal basis to begin the process of appealing a conviction on behalf of an accused person convicted of an offence, even with their consent.

It also believes the time period for appeals of the convictions has long expired. The firm is seeking clarification on the legality of the plans.

Questions posed to the Garda Press Office on the issue were not answered yesterday.

A Garda spokesman previously said the move to appeal had been decided upon following consultation with the Attorney General.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn has been writing to the motorists stating the force had identified that correct procedures were not followed with respect to their prosecutions.

The letters seek the consent of the motorists to allow gardaí to begin a process of appealing the conviction on their behalf. As they weren't issued fixed charge penalty notices, the drivers were denied their right to pay a fine and avoid a court appearance.

It is unclear if any motorist will seek damages following the debacle. However, it is likely drivers disqualified as a result would be considering their options.

Irish Independent

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