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Sunday 21 October 2018

Judge's ruling slams the brake on penalty points system

Tim Healy and Treacy Hogan

THE penalty points system is in trouble because gardai are unable to prove motorists have received notification of their offences.

Five drivers had their cases dismissed yesterday. They claimed never to have received the notices for speeding.

Motorists who receive a notice have the choice of paying a fine and accepting two penalty points on their licence or pursuing the matter in court where conviction will lead to four penalty points.

But yesterday's ruling opens the possibility that any motorist can claim not to have received notification.

Changes to the system will now have to be reviewed. Three possibilities are being considered:

* Gardai could deliver the notices by hand - a huge task, involving more than 100,000 notices a year.

* The Government could amend the law to allow for the presumption that everyone has received a notification by ordinary post.

* All notifications could be sent by registered post, although it is not clear that registration would necessarily be accepted by the courts as proof of delivery.

"Ultimately, it may mean the only way will be for the gardai to serve every notice by hand," one lawyer said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said the papers in the case would be examined and if any deficiencies were identified these would be addressed through legislation.

The five motorists were clocked by the garda speed van allegedly exceeding the limit on the Lucan and Naas by-passes in February last year.

They were ordered to Dublin District Court last month after failing to pay the fine issued by ordinary post immediately after the alleged offences. The motorists argued in court that they had not received the notices.

If they have received the notices, they would have been able to pay the fine and avoid court, their lawyers argued.

In the absence of any proof that the notices had been sent, they asked that the cases against them be dismissed.

Gardai however asked Judge Brian Smyth to state a case on this legal point to the High Court.

Yesterday the Chief Prosecution Service told Judge Smyth that the State was "conceding the point" made by the defendants.

Legal changes would not be a matter for gardai.

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