Tuesday 24 April 2018

Drivers who miss fines deadline to avoid court by paying on the double

Independents 4 Change TD Tommy Broughan Photo: Tom Burke
Independents 4 Change TD Tommy Broughan Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Motorists are to be given the option of paying a 'double fine' in return for avoiding a court appearance under plans being brought to Cabinet tomorrow.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is moving to close a loophole in the law which has seen thousands of road traffic-related cases thrown out of court.

Under the current system, motorists who fail to pay a fine within 56 days of the offence are summoned to court.

Prior to their court appearance, they are given two options to pay their fines.

However, thousands of people escape convictions and penalty points by telling the judge they did not receive the original fixed-charge notice.

The Courts Service tentatively estimates that around 7,500 cases are dismissed every year on these grounds.

The Irish Independent understands that Ms Fitzgerald will bring a memo to Cabinet tomorrow, which proposes the introduction of a new payment option which will permit motorists to avoid appearing in court in return for paying double the fine.

The proposal, which has been agreed with Transport Minister Shane Ross and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, was recommended by the Criminal Justice Working Group.

Independents 4 Change TD Tommy Broughan has also called for the introduction of the new payment option.

"This bill will restore fairness to the system, while giving people another payment option and therefore another opportunity to avoid court," a Government source said.

"The Tánaiste has been aware of the urgency of this legislation and has progressed it as quickly as possible. It will come before Cabinet tomorrow."

Presently, a fixed-charge notice offence affords two payment options before a courts summons is issued - a first period of 28 days, during which the person may pay the fixed amount, followed by a second consecutive period of 28 days during which the person may pay the fixed amount plus 50pc.

The measures being introduced by Ms Fitzgerald introduce a "third option".

Separately, Mr Donohoe and Finance Minister Michael Noonan will brief the Cabinet on the Government's summer economic statement which will be announced on Thursday. Central to the statement will be plans for a new 'rainy day fund', according to one government source involved in drafting the statement.

The statement will also reflect the prospect of a 'Brexit' and the impact this could have on the Irish economy.

However, it is understood Mr Noonan will say that the €900m planned for tax cuts and spending increases is still possible in October's Budget.

Last Friday, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin questioned whether the Government has done enough preparation in the event of a 'Brexit'.

Government sources have rejected the criticism and have claimed that Mr Howlin himself would have had an input into the contingency plan.

Irish Independent

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