More drivers dodge penalty points by donating to poor box
Almost 100 motorists are continuing to avoid penalty points in district courts every month by making contributions to the poor box, despite a High Court ruling last year branding the practice "incorrect".
New figures released by the Department of Justice show that 692 drivers escaped having points added to their licence between January and July of this year- an increase of 162 in just two months.
Between January and May 2015 there were just 530 registered instances of people avoiding penalty points.
The increase comes despite a ruling in February 2014 by Mr Justice Gerard Hogan during a judicial review hearing that stated the use of the poor box for penalty point offences was specifically barred under the Road Traffic Act 2010.
Under the legislation, it found that the imposition of penalty points and a fine was mandatory on conviction.
The poor box is a non-statutory system used by the district courts to impose a fine to be given to charity instead of a criminal conviction.
However, Judge Hogan ruled this legislation removed the discretion of judges to use the poor box for penalty point offences and said to do so was "incorrect".
Despite this judgment being immediately sent to all district court judges, figures released to Independent TD Tommy Broughan via a Parliamentary Question show more than 1,526 drivers avoided penalty points between 2014 and May 2015 after they made a donation.
In most cases, drivers would have faced having four or five penalty points added to their licence if convicted in court.
The Dublin Metropolitan area recorded the highest number of cases where drivers avoided penalty points by making a donation to the poor box, with 122. It was followed by Sligo, which racked up 70 instances of the controversial practice. Waterford also faired poorly with a total of 67 road users avoiding penalty points, 46 in Dungarvan, 14 in Waterford city and seven in Lismore.
Leitrim, Monaghan, Roscommon, Galway, Kildare, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Wexford, Louth, Laois, Westmeath, Cavan, Tipperary, Kerry and Offaly were the other counties where district courts imposed the donation ruling as an alternative to penalty points. Most other counties have abandoned the practice.
Road safety group Parc said the increase in the practice is worrying and called for an end to the poor box system.
"It's time that all the courts applied the law and realised the pain and suffering inflicted on families of victims of road traffic collisions," said chairperson Susan Grey.
"That pain lasts a lifetime for the families left behind. The court poor box is no deterrent to drivers inflicting that pain and suffering on others - only penalty points and disqualifications will do that."