Wednesday 13 December 2017

Drivers banned in penalty points scandal to sue Garda

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Several civil actions are being prepared against An Garda Síochána by lawyers acting for motorists badly affected by the penalty points debacle.

They include motorists who ended up being disqualified after they were prosecuted and hit with points despite never receiving a fixed charge penalty notice.

One leading solicitor told the Irish Independent he was preparing four such cases that would be lodged shortly.

Some involve motorists who would be seeking damages after losing their jobs as a direct result of being disqualified.

Other law firms said they had been contacted by people in similar circumstances who were now considering legal action.

Any driver accumulating 12 penalty points within any given three-year period is automatically disqualified from driving for six months.

A lower threshold of seven penalty points applies for learner drivers and motorists in the first two years after obtaining a full licence.

Approximately 14,700 people received convictions and court-imposed penalties, including the imposition of penalty points, despite never being sent a fixed-charge notice.

Had they received the notices, they could have simply paid fines and avoided a court appearance and the imposition of additional points.

The massive legal blunder by gardaí included hundreds of cases where motorists were issued with more than one summons for the same offence.

Gardaí began a process of appealing cases where convictions, fines and points were handed out in error, so the motorists involved would not have to. The first appeal cases came before the President of the Circuit Court, Judge Raymond Groarke, on July 19.

A Garda spokesman said these had been successfully appealed and the Court Services was in the process of updating the records of the motorists involved and returning fines paid.

A report on the debacle by Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan laid some of the blame on an overly complicated system for administering points and the involvement of too many agencies in the process.

"The examination team is satisfied that this was not a deliberate act of commission or omission by any one individual, rather it was an unintended consequence of the continuous upgrading of the Fixed Charge Processing System on a piecemeal basis," his report stated.

The review suggested there were too many offences attracting penalty points.

Of 614 offences, only four had been detected more than 100,000 times, 25 have been used more than 10,000 times and 66 offences more than 1,000 times.

Irish Independent

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