State to close off way to evade penalty points

Drivers may have to prove that notices of infringements never arrived in post

John Deasy TD (FG) said he believed sending the notices by registered mail may be the best way forward. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / THE IRISH TIMES

John Deasy TD (FG) said he believed sending the notices by registered mail may be the best way forward. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / THE IRISH TIMES

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 01:00

The Government is working on legislative changes that will close off what is believed to be the most popular way of evading penalty points for speeding and other infringements.

Under the new measures those claiming in court they did not pay their fines and accept points on their licence because they had never received notifications in the post would be required to provide proof to support their claim.

A Department of Justice working group considering reforms to the fixed charge notice system is also examining if the loophole could be closed by all notices sent via the postal system being dispatched by registered mail which would need to be signed as received at their destination.

The group has established that the numbers of motorists telling judges their notices never arrived is much higher than those contacting the motor tax office to complain that their tax discs have gotten lost in the post.

Same list

This is in spite of the register of names and addresses held by the motor tax office being the same list used to send fixed charged notices to motorists.

John Deasy TD (FG), who has raised the loophole issue in the Dáil and at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said Garda and legal sources suggested to him that the claim that notices were lost in the post was the “most common way” motorists were avoiding incurring points in the courts. He believed sending the notices by registered mail might be the best way forward.

The number of notices issued has been falling in recent years, with between 300,000 and 400,000 notices sent in the post each year.

A report compiled for PAC by an advocacy group called Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Care on our Roads suggested the notices problem was significant.

Poor box

Its members observed cases in the District Courts at 13 locations around the State in April and May, and found the majority of those who claimed their notices had been lost in the post had their cases struck out and incurred no points if they made a contribution to the poor box.

Under the penalty points system when a motorist receives the notice of an infringement in the post they have 28 days to pay a fine and accept their penalty points.

At the expiry of that period, if they pay within a subsequent 28 days they can avoid going to court if they pay the original fine plus a 50 per cent late payment penalty and accept additional points. If neither of the two options to pay is taken up, motorists are summonsed to appear in court.

However, a large number of motorists are appearing before the courts and claiming the first they realised they had been detected speeding or committing another offence was when the summonses arrived in the post.