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Just one driver convicted for not surrendering licence out of 10,000 ordered to do so by courts

At least 10,000 disqualified drivers failed to hand over licences over last two years but only 26 prosecutions taken

Garda sources said up to 40 per cent of drivers disqualified by the courts never had any licence to surrender. Photograph: iStock

Only one driver has been convicted of failing to surrender a licence after disqualification in the past two years despite the fact that thousands have been ordered to do so by the courts.

Some 26 drivers were prosecuted in 2022 and 2023 collectively, with one conviction, for failing to surrender a licence after disqualification.

This was despite the fact that 16,873 driving disqualifications were imposed by judges across the country, with licences surrendered in only 818 cases. Motorists can be disqualified from driving by judges for a range of offences including dangerous driving or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Garda sources said up to 40 per cent of drivers disqualified by the courts never had any licence to surrender. That means at least 10,000 disqualified drivers with licences failed to surrender them to the Road Safety Authority (RSA) over the last two years, which they are legally obliged to do.


Susan Gray, who founded Parc road safety group after her husband Steve was killed in Inishowen, Co Donegal, in 2004, said the RSA was “spending millions” on education and awareness programmes and advertisements in a bid to change driver behaviour. However, at the same time a “dangerous message” was being sent to those drivers already disqualified.

“If you are disqualified there will be no consequence if you fail to present your licence in court for the driver number to be recorded to activate your disqualification,” she said. There was also “no procedure whereby the RSA automatically informs the gardaí when a licence or permit has not been surrendered”.

As a result of gardaí not being informed, there was “little to no chance of being brought to court and convicted of this offence or receiving the fine”. Ms Gray said this lapse in the system meant disqualified drivers were “getting another message that laws are not being activated and others not being enforced”.

The near non-existent enforcement rates have been confirmed in responses to Dáil questions by Paul Murphy TD (PBP) to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

The information supplied to Mr Murphy by the Courts Service shows the number of people prosecuted for failing to surrender their licence was 16 last year and 10 in 2022. There were no convictions last year and one in 2022.

Last year more than 13,000 prosecutions were commenced for the offence of driving without a licence

While precise details for the sole conviction recorded over the last two years were not supplied, the Courts Service confirmed the person was fined €1,500.

The RSA has yet to respond to a series of questions about why so few disqualified drivers are being prosecuted for not surrendering their licences to the authority.

The Department of Transport said while it was an offence for a disqualified driver not to surrender their licence, compliance with that measure did not assure those drivers would stay off the roads. It was an offence for people to driver while disqualified and this was “the issue of concern”. Enforcement was “a matter for An Garda Síochána”.

In reply to queries, the Garda said the production by disqualified drivers of their licences in court, in accordance with the Road Traffic Act, “in the first instance is a matter for the Courts Service and the judiciary”.

Furthermore, the administration of the driving licence system “including the recording of disqualifications, the return of disqualified driving licences and associated activity” was the responsibility of the National Driver Licence Service under the Department of Transport.

The Garda added that frontline gardaí had new technology enabling them to determine very quickly, by the roadside, if a driver is disqualified.

Last year more than 13,000 prosecutions were commenced for the offence of driving without a licence.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times