Speed-limit blunder sees 1,306 drivers get points struck off
* Restrictions deemed illegal
* €104,480 in fines scrapped
MORE than 1,300 motorists have had their penalty points struck off and fines repaid because of a blunder.
The speed cameras that caught the motorists at four separate locations on seven different occasions were positioned in zones with reduced speed limits because of roadworks.
The special speed limits set in these areas had been decided upon by gardai.
However, a special order is then needed from local authorities in order to make the new speed limit lawful – and in these cases, the order wasn't made.
It is not known if permission had been sought for the orders or if they were refused, but without the order being signed into place, the new limits were illegal.
As a result, the 1,306 motorists who were cited by speed cameras between January 26 and April 18 of this year have had the penalty points that they were issued revoked from their licences, and fines that they paid reimbursed.
The fines had the potential to generate €104,480 in revenue for the State.
Gardai confirmed the blunder and said it had come to light after a routine review.
"Following a routine review by the Regional Traffic Division in Dublin Castle, an issue with a specific set of fixed charge penalty notices was identified," a statement read.
The incidents occurred in Dublin – at Coldwinters on the N2 on January 10, 17 and 28; and at Castleknock on the N3 on January 26 and February 13.
The mistake was then repeated on two occasions on April 9 and 18 on the N3 at Mulhuddart.
It is not known what decreased speed limit was supposed to be implemented as it changed on various dates and on various sections of the roads.
The garda statement also said that "a letter was posted to all 1,306 cases on September 5".
And in another embarrassing error made by gardai, the cheques that were issued refunding the fines are now being recalled, as the statement also revealed "the refund cheque issued has an administrative error on it".
They are today sending out further letters to those affected requesting that the cheques be returned and promising that a replacement will be issued in due course.
Gardai also said that they "wish to apologise to those affected for the inconvenience".
If caught speeding, a motorist is subject to payment of a fine of €80, and will have two penalty points imposed upon their licence. If this fine is not paid within 28 days, it is increased to €120.
If there is no payment made after a further 28 days, the motorist could be facing four penalty points and a fine of up to €800 if found guilty of non-payment in court.
Since the introduction of the speed-camera zones, road deaths have fallen to record lows, with 162 deaths on our roads in 2012, compared to 212 in 2010.
The privately operated speeding cameras administered by 'GoSafe' were first rolled out in 2010.
Earlier this year, additional speed-camera zones were announced, bringing the total of speed traps in the country to 727 – covering a total of 2,354km of our road network.
This is not the first time that an error on the State's behalf has allowed drivers to avoid penalty points.
A legal loophole, which was not addressed until last year, allowed more than 85,000 drivers to avoid penalty points.
Motorists opted not to pay their fines initially, and chose to fight their cases in court as they were not required to bring their driving licences to court, meaning that the court clerk could not impose penalty points upon them.
By Emma Jane Hade