Wednesday 13 November 2019

Motorists to dodge penalty points for yet another year

An estimated 25,000 motorists have refused to pay fixed-penalty fines
An estimated 25,000 motorists have refused to pay fixed-penalty fines

Greg Harkin

Successive ministers have failed to close a loophole in the law which will allow speeding motorists to escape penalty points and fines for at least another year, the Irish Independent has learned.

An estimated 25,000 motorists have refused to pay fixed-penalty fines - and accept points on their driving license - this year alone by claiming they didn't receive the notices in the ordinary post.

Once summonsed to court, the motorists are having their cases dismissed because the State has failed to prove the delivery of the notices.

Road safety campaigners and frustrated gardaí say the latest legal loophole endangers lives and makes a mockery of road safety legislation.

The loophole makes the GoSafe vans deployed across the country ineffective, according to senior gardaí.

Minister Pascal Donohoe has promised to close the loophole late next year.

A so-called 'third option' process was to have been included in the 2010 Road Traffic Act but it was never enacted.

That would have given motorists another opportunity to pay.

The process envisaged including the original penalty notice with the court summons served by gardaí. It would allow the motorist to pay double the original fine and accept the points up to seven days before a court appearance.

However the Department of Transport discovered the system couldn't be introduced until additional software was purchased for the Courts Service and Garda computer systems.

The €6.5m costs of the new system have been approved but it could be the end of 2016 before the new system is in place.

During one case at Letterkenny District Court on Monday, a garda inspector told a judge there was little point in him cross-examining a motorist who claimed he hadn't received a fixed penalty notice in the post. "There's no point in embarrassing myself," he said.

The case - like several others - was dismissed.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said it would be mid-2016 before the penalty points notice loophole is closed, saying 70pc of motorists are paying fixed penalty notices.

Irish Independent

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