Judge feels ‘mentally sick’ over ‘rotten’ Garda fixed-charge penalty system

Judge Patrick Durcan orders Garda overseeing system to explain it at Ennis court

On Friday, a female motorist told Judge Durcan that she didn’t receive the Fixed Charge Notice (FCN) from the Thurles unit that would have given her time to pay fines for two speeding offences. Photograph: Getty Images

On Friday, a female motorist told Judge Durcan that she didn’t receive the Fixed Charge Notice (FCN) from the Thurles unit that would have given her time to pay fines for two speeding offences. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A judge said on Friday he has felt “mentally sick” over the fixed-charge penalty system used to prosecute speeding motorists.

At Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan made his comment after ordering that the top Garda overseeing the force’s contentious Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS) for motoring offences come before him to answer for why the system is “rotten”.

“Four months ago after a court here where there was a number of these cases, I was barely able to drive home, I was so mentally sick at the way the whole thing isn’t working,” said Judge Durcan. “There is something rotten in the whole system.”

The judge has been a vociferous critic of the system in response to motorists regularly telling him they did not receive fixed-charge penalties from the Garda unit based in Thurles that issues the notices nationally.

Registered post

Judge Durcan said if the fixed charge unit sent out the notices by registered post, it would get over the difficulty.

On Friday, a female motorist told Judge Durcan that she didn’t receive the Fixed Charge Notice (FCN) from the Thurles unit that would have given her time to pay fines for two speeding offences.

However, as she didn’t receive the FCNs, she received two court summonses and is now liable to higher penalty points on conviction.

Judge Durcan said the case should be adjourned to allow Supt James Keane come to court to answer questions on the system.

“We have to get to the bottom of this because it diminishes everything that everyone does,” he said.

‘Appalling policy’

The judge told Garda Dermot O’Rourke: “I want you to contact Supt Keane’s office to find out what court he can be here for, and I want an explanation because there is something rotten in the whole system. I want to know why they are pursuing an appalling policy in relation to the serving of documents.”

After hearing details of a separate case where a motorist didn’t receive the FCN from the Thurles unit, Judge Durcan said: “The sooner Supt Keane in Thurles wakes up the better and so that everything can be served by registered post and put the cost on the punter.”

Twenty minutes later, Garda O’Rourke returned to court to state that Supt Keane is no longer overseeing the fixed charge system and only in the last few days has assumed a new role in the force. Garda O’Rourke said that Supt Keane’s successor will come to court on October 6th to speak to Judge Durcan on the issue.