Convicted drivers still given a licence to escape penalty points

Drivers who forget to bring their driving licences to court are avoiding penalty points, especially in Dundalk and Drogheda

A Garda speed camera. There is a huge disparity between different areas of the country in the imposition of penalty points for people convicted of driving offences. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

A Garda speed camera. There is a huge disparity between different areas of the country in the imposition of penalty points for people convicted of driving offences. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 10:16

Where a motorist lives has a huge bearing on whether or not they will have penalty points applied to their licence if convicted of a road traffic offence.

Just 15 per cent of drivers who appeared in court in Drogheda or Dundalk over the last 18 months have had points applied to their licence on conviction. This compares to 60 per cent of drivers appearing in court in the Dublin metropolitan area having points imposed, a four-fold differential.

The disparity was highlighted in an analysis of the number of driving licence details recorded in each court district for road traffic convictions between March 2012 and August 2013.

Points in court

The main reasons why a motorist in court on a motoring offence does not have points recorded on conviction is if they do not bring their licence to court. Since May 2012 a summons for a road traffic offence has contained a requirement for a driver to bring their licence to court. Failure to do so is an offence.


Widespread variation
However, as the table shows, there is widespread variation with how this requirement is enforced in court districts across the State. For example in the Donegal, Cavan/
Monaghan, Kerry and Kildare court districts, less than one in five motorists have points applied to their licence on conviction.

In the Wexford courts the average is 59 per cent, but nationally only 40 per cent of drivers who appeared in court during the 18 months to August had penalty points added to their licence.

Also, according to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, not one driver has been prosecuted for failing to bring their licence to court.

The low level of compliance is causing disquiet in the Department of Transport which has raised the issue with the Department of Justice and the Courts Service. A working group with representatives from all three bodies is examining the problem as
part of a wider examination of the penalty points system.

The information emerged as part of a response from Mr Shatter to a parliamentary question from Labour’s Tommy Broughan.

Parc spokeswoman Susan Gray has called on Mr Shatter to explain how he plans to address the issue and ensure road traffic legislation was fully and consistently enforced in the courts.

“There are no doubt people out there driving who should have lost their licence and be off the road because of this failure,” said Ms Gray. “Many of these will be repeat offenders and they are not being allocated points, which means it is more likely they will have an opportunity to maim or kill on our roads.”

She said failure to impose penalty points on all drivers convicted in court was
bringing the penalty points system into disrepute and lessening its impact as a deterrent.

“Is it any wonder our road death figures are rising when drivers who should have significant penalty points on their licence are avoiding them by simply not bringing their licence to court?”

Section 63 of the Road Traffic Act (2010) was introduced to close a loophole that has seen 83,000 drivers escape 365,795 penalty points since 2002 because they did not bring their licence to
court.

Road Safety Authority chairman Gay Byrne wrote to the Minister for Justice in May to express his frustration at the issue.