Cross-Border penalty points system put on hold

Legal complexities stalling all-island project which was due to be introduced this year

A spokesman for Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said they are confident the cross-Border project will still proceed.

A spokesman for Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said they are confident the cross-Border project will still proceed.

Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 16:34

Plans to introduce a cross-Border system of penalty points has been put on “pause” because of legal complexities, it has been confirmed.

Last year the Minister of Transport Leo Varadkar and the then SDLP Minister of the Environment Alex Attwood agreed to introduce a system where Southern motorists convicted of penalty point driving offences would have the points recognised in Northern Ireland, and vice versa.

The two Ministers said the new system would be introduced this year in a cross-Border arrangement which would be the first of its kind in Europe.

Agreeing legal protocols however has proved very difficult, spokesmen for the Department of Transport and the North’s new environment Minister Mark H Durkan said yesterday (Sunday).

“We are still fully committed to making this happen but there are legal matters to be examined and the new system won’t happen this year. But we are still confident it can proceed,” said Mr Varadkar’s spokesman.

One of the key problems is to establish a system where summonses issued in the Republic to people living outside the State would be legally recognised, it is understood. The Department of Justice and the Attorney General Maire Whelan have been called in to determine if the problems can be resolved.

A spokesman for SDLP Minister Mr Durkan also confirmed that the project has stalled. “The mutual recognition of penalty points between Northern Ireland and Ireland is a challenging project for which there is no agreed international framework,” he said.

The spokesman added that Mr Durkan has met Mr Varadkar on a number of occasions, most recently as part of the North South Ministerial Council transport sectoral meeting in November 2013, to discuss how hurdles might be overcome.

“At this meeting Ministers agreed to pause the project to allow further investigations of complex policy issues, to enable the policy to be taken forward effectively. Minister Durkan firmly believes that, for the policy to be workable and effective, these further investigations are essential,” said the spokesman.

He added, “There are a number of other legislative changes the Department is taking forward to tackle the main causes of deaths on our roads. These are contained in the Road Traffic Amendment Bill, which contains measures to reduce the drink drive limit and put in place graduated driver licensing for new drivers. The Bill remains with the Executive for approval to introduce it in the Assembly.”