Non-nationals taking the rap in penalty points scam
TENS of thousands of Irish people caught for speeding and dangerous driving are getting Northern and foreign drivers to 'take the rap' for them to avoid getting points.
The Automobile Association has obtained evidence of widespread fraud by companies whose Irish drivers are caught committing penalty point offences.
The offending drivers are nominating their Polish or Northern drivers in the knowledge that they cannot get points on their licence. The same loophole is being exploited by couples, one of whom is either from the North, UK or east Europe, when they are caught.
The partner with the foreign licence states on a form accompanying the points notice that they were driving the car or truck and get off scot free.
Yesterday the AA sent a radical document to the Government proposing that a separate penalty points record be kept of foreign drivers to keep tabs on them and their driving habits.
The AA says it strains credulity that one in four drivers are esaping points because they are from the North or abroad at a time when one-in-ten of the population are non-nationals. The organisation said from evidence it has received it is convinced there is widespread 'personation' to avoid points.
The association has put forward a detailed proposal to deal with the growing problem of non-national drivers evading the Irish penalty points system.
The proposal will create a 'parallel record' of a driver's behaviour in Ireland and this will bring out-of-state licences within the scope of the Irish penalty points system.
Conor Faughnan, AA public affairs manager, said there was a major gap in Irish law at the moment, and the situation is worsening.
Statistics show that one-in- four driving offences are not being dealt with because the driver has a licence issued by another country and is therefore not covered by Irish penalty points.
"The situation is getting out of hand and that loophole must be closed," he said.
Almost 440,000 drivers have received points since their introduction in 2002 but 108,000 of these drivers do not hold an Irish driving licence and so the points cannot be applied. The 'foreign' licences include those from Northern Ireland, the UK, Eastern Europe and further afield.
"The AA is also aware that there is a large amount of anecdotal evidence that individuals and companies are routinely putting forward non-nationals as the driver when an offence is committed -- even if the real driver holds an Irish licence -- in order to avoid penalty points," said Mr Faughnan.
"If your licence is not Irish, then you can thumb your nose at everything we are trying to do in road safety enforcement. This is undermining our system, and it has to be stopped."
Under the proposal, when a driver first comes to the attention of the Garda for a road traffic offence, then a record is taken of the national licence number.
That reference is then used to create a parallel record of the driver's behaviour in Ireland. That record is then used in all future prosecutions. Penalty points are applied to the Parallel Record in the same way as they are applied to Irish driving licences, and the sanctions which apply in respect of various driving offences are the same.
As with an Irish licence if the parallel record accumulates 12 points within any three-year period then that individual is prohibited from driving in the Republic of Ireland for six months.
Likewise if a ban of any period is handed down by the courts then that ban applies to the parallel record.
In effect this means that the foreign licence becomes every bit as accessible and usable for the Garda as an Irish licence.
The AA said it had taken legal advice on the proposal and was fully satisfied that no legal obstacle exists to the proposed new system, which will govern the behaviour of non-national drivers in Ireland without affecting our international obligations.