Almost 5,000 facing court prosecution for non-payment of Covid-19 fines

Vast majority of 18,125 penalty notices issued up to Wednesday relate to non-essential travel

Gardaí had, as of Wednesday, issued 18,125 fines for breaches of various Covid-19 regulations. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Gardaí had, as of Wednesday, issued 18,125 fines for breaches of various Covid-19 regulations. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

Nearly 5,000 people are facing prosecution in court for failing to pay fines issued for breaches of Covid-19 regulations.

Gardaí had as of Wednesday issued a total of 18,125 fines totalling more than €2.5 million for breaches of the various Covid-19 regulations, with the vast majority (some 13,000) relating to non-essential travel.

However, more than a quarter of these fines remain unpaid after 28 days, meaning alleged offenders automatically receive a court summons.

This would translate into some 4,893 extra cases coming before district courts in the coming months. This number is expected to rise significantly as more people fail to pay within the 28-day-period.

A conviction for failing to pay a fixed charge penalty notice, such as a fine for breaching Covid-19 regulations, can result in a criminal record, a fine of €1,000 and up to a month in prison.

The extra cases will put significant pressure on the courts system which is already dealing with a large backlog due to the suspension of many hearings during the pandemic.

Unfairly imposed

Not everyone who fails to pay the fixed charge penalty notice will end up with a conviction. According to a Garda source, many have not paid the fines because they feel they were unfairly imposed and plan to make this case in court.

For example, some people fined for failing to wear a face mask are expected to appeal on the basis that they had a medical exemption while others fined for undertaking non-essential journeys will likely argue their trip was permitted under the emergency health legislation. Some are also likely the challenge the validity of the fines system itself.

More than half of those issued fines to date are aged between 18 and 25, with 75 per cent going to males. Just 1 per cent of those fined have been aged over 65.

Time to pay

The figures show 34 per cent of fines were issued less than 28 days ago, meaning the recipients still have time to pay. Another 35 per cent have paid their fines in full, while 390 fines are still being processed by the Garda and will be issued shortly

As of March 31st, a total of 18,125 fines had been issued by gardaí for breaches of Covid-19 regulations including:

-13,036 fines of €100 for non-essential travel

- 686 fines of €500 for organising a house party and 2,383 €150 fines for attending a house party

- 976 fines of €500 for non-essential journeys to airports or ports

- 315 fines of €80 each for not wearing a face covering

- 339 fines of €100 for non-essential travel by Northern Ireland residents for travelling across the Border.