Speeding fine system is ‘bureaucracy gone mad’ - judge

Inspector ordered to explain prosecution for not paying despite attempts to do so

At Macroom District Court today was retired teacher Timothy Doherty, whose attempts to pay a  fine for speeding on the N22 Cork-Killarney road at Crookstown on November 16th, 2013, were rejected. Photograph: Cork Courts Limited

At Macroom District Court today was retired teacher Timothy Doherty, whose attempts to pay a fine for speeding on the N22 Cork-Killarney road at Crookstown on November 16th, 2013, were rejected. Photograph: Cork Courts Limited

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 18:47

A judge has described the process used by gardaí to issue speeding fines as “bureaucracy gone mad”, and said District Courts have been targeted for “inappropriate and unfair” criticism by a Government Minister for “systemic failures”.

Judge James McNulty made the comments today having ordered the inspector responsible for overseeing the issuing of fixed charge penalty notices to appear in Macroom District Court in Cork to explain why a retired schoolteacher was prosecuted for not paying a speeding fine, despite having attempted to do so twice without success.

Last month, Timothy Doherty (63), of Inniskeane, Co Cork, told Macroom District Court that his first attempt to pay the €80 fine he received for speeding on the N22 Cork-Killarney road on November 16th, 2013 was rejected because he did not sign his middle name, as it appears on his driving licence, on the form that accompanied his cheque.

His second attempt to pay the fine, which was increased to €120, also failed. Mr Doherty had sent the original cheque for €80 with a second cheque for €40, but was told he could not use two cheques to pay the fine.

In a lengthy submission today, Garda Insp John McDonald, who heads up the Garda’s fixed charge processing unit in Thurles, told the court that an Garda Síochána had instructed BillPay to only accept payments in the full name as they appear on the licence. He said payments cannot be accepted from more than one cheque because if one cheque were not to clear it would result in the part-payment of a fine.

Judge McNulty said that three private companies are now involved in the issuing of speeding fines – GoSafe which is the operator of the detection vans, TICo, the mailing company that posts the fines and BillPay, which handles the fine.

“The District Courts are getting it in the neck, and are getting some inappropriate criticism for dealing with the systemic failures that are arising from speeding fines. It is quite inappropriate and unfair,” Judge McNulty said, making specific reference to comments made by then-minister for transport Leo Varadkar in a front page article in The Irish Times on December 28th last.

Judge McNulty struck out the case against Mr Doherty and quoted the Bible, saying: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”