Sunday 22 September 2019

Justice Minister Flanagan 'not in favour' of Transport Minister Shane Ross's new clampdown on speeding

Proposal: Minister Shane Ross pictured on his way into Croke Park for yesterday’s All-Ireland hurling final. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Proposal: Minister Shane Ross pictured on his way into Croke Park for yesterday’s All-Ireland hurling final. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is opposing new anti-speeding laws proposed by Transport Minister Shane Ross that would see motorists face graduated penalties depending on how fast they are driving over the limit.

Mr Flanagan told the Irish Independent he is not in favour of mandatory sanctions because of potential for "unintended consequences". He also revealed that he opposes plans to fine motorists caught without their driving licence.

Mr Flanagan said discretion for guards and judges was important.

"Mandatory sanctions or the removal of discretion is a blunt instrument and can have unintended consequences," Mr Flanagan said. "In principle I don't favour it."

The Justice Minister's comments are the first public criticism of his Cabinet colleague's proposals, which were privately met with strong opposition from Fine Gael ministers when they were first mooted late last year.

The issue of graduated speeding penalties and removal of Garda discretion on drivers' licences was referred to a Cabinet sub-committee for further scrutiny last December.

However, it now appears that Mr Ross's plans are set to be scuppered in the face of strong opposition in Fine Gael, including from Mr Flanagan, who has responsibility for An Garda Síochána who would have to enforce any new laws.

Mr Flanagan said: "There is an element of judicial discretion as far as speeding is concerned. Each and every case is looked at on its own merits - the circumstances of the driving and the speed.

"In every case a judge takes into careful consideration the driving and the speed in the context of road conditions, weather conditions, danger, [and] evidence of the guard.

"Similarly as far as gardaí are concerned they have a range of charges that they can bring in terms of dangerous driving, careless driving, driving without due care and attention, and speeding - all of which look at driver behaviour."

Under Mr Ross's proposed new rules, motorists driving faster than 10kmh above the speed limit would get an €80 fine and between three and five penalty points. Motorists driving 20kmh over the speed limit would be given a €150 fine and between four and six points. Motorists driving between 20kmh and 30kmh over the speed limit would receive a €200 fine and up to seven penalty points.

Anyone driving in excess of 30kmh above the speed limits will be charged with dangerous driving.

Mr Ross's plans would also see the removal of the practice of giving gardaí discretion to allow motorists caught speeding and without their drivers' licence to present it at a Garda station by a set period of time.

But Mr Flanagan said: "I think Garda discretion serves an important purpose in the context of our road traffic regime."

A spokesman for Mr Ross said: "The policy is to bring in graduated speeding fines."

Irish Independent

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