Use of cameras to detect untaxed cars challenged in High Court

Driver claims cameras cannot be used to prosecute offences under Finance Acts

Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 01:00

The detection of untaxed vehicles by cameras fitted to Garda cars is being challenged in the High Court.

Luke Ronayne, from Claremorris, Co Mayo, is contesting a prosecution taken against him on the basis of evidence from a Garda camera for allegedly not having a tax disc. Mr Ronayne argues he cannot be prosecuted in this way because a failure to have a tax disc is an offence under the Finance Acts, but the law providing for the use of electronic recording equipment only covers the prosecution of road-traffic offences.

Section 81 of the Road Traffic Act (2010) allows the use of electronic equipment – in this case an automatic number plate reader (ANPR) camera attached to a Garda car – to detect and provide evidence in the prosecuting of speeding and other motoring offences.

The ANPR system is also used to identify untaxed and uninsured vehicles. According to Evan O’Dwyer, a solicitor representing Mr Ronayne, legislation providing for the use of ANPR cameras does not cover offences under the Finance Acts, and may need to be changed. Mr Ronayne is seeking a judicial review of this law in the High Court because “there is no statutory empowerment” for the method of detection used to support this prosecution. “The prosecuting garda accepted to me in court that he had not stopped the car, had not witnessed an offence and that the detection had been made by video surveillance equipment,” Mr O’Dwyer said. “The garda also confirmed in court there is no statutory authority for a prosecution on these grounds for this offence.”

Changing the law According to Mr O’Dwyer, the only way this issue can be resolved is by “changing the law or introducing a new piece of legislation”. In his affidavit, Mr Ronayne said: “I am arguing that there is no jurisdiction on the part of the prosecuting garda to use video surveillance or other electronic equipment for the purposes of the detection of offences under the Finance Acts, of which this offence is a part. Therefore the decision to convict me of this offence is ultra vires [beyond the powers].”

Gardaí have 114 vehicles equipped with ANPR cameras which cross-check number plates of vehicles with a database of suspect vehicles from Pulse. The system can also record the speed of a vehicle in front of a patrol car and record on-the-scene evidence of dangerous driving, crossing continuous white lines and breaking red lights.