Attorney General raises serious concerns about Shane Ross’s anti-speeding measures

Séamus Woulfe questions if planned graduated speeding penalties are ‘proportionate’

Shane Ross’s planned anti-speeding measures have prompted concerns. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Shane Ross’s planned anti-speeding measures have prompted concerns. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

Attorney General Séamus Woulfe has raised serious concerns about new anti-speeding measures proposed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, and questioned whether the planned penalties are “proportionate”.

An Garda Síochána have also queried how graduated speeding penalties, which would see stiffer sanctions imposed the higher someone is caught driving above the speed limit, could be enforced.

The disclosure comes as one of Mr Ross’s ministerial colleagues said the Dublin Rathdown TD had become a political “bogeyman”.

Finian McGrath, Mr Ross’s partner in the Independent Alliance, said the Minister for Transport had become particularly unpopular in rural Ireland.

Mr Ross’s scheme was met with strong opposition from some of his Fine Gael colleagues at a recent Cabinet meeting and will be referred to a Cabinet sub-committee for further scrutiny.

Danger

However, Mr Ross insists graduated speeding limits will be introduced to bring Ireland into line with many other EU countries. In Cabinet notes obtained by The Irish Times, Mr Woulfe raised a series of concerns.

“There is a question as to whether it is proportionate to stipulate the penalties in this manner,” Mr Woulfe said. “10km/h over the speed limit in a 120km/h zone might not represent as big a danger or as intentional a wrongdoing as the same breach in a 30km/h zone.

“Consideration could be given to applying graduated penalties on the basis of what percentage over the speed limit the person was driving. This would more accurately reflect the increasing risk and danger posed by the speeding and hence the penalties would be more proportionate.”

It is envisaged that drivers travelling up to 10km/h above the speed limit would receive between three and five penalty points and an €80 fine.

Drivers detected travelling at speeds 10- 20km/h above the limit would receive between four and six points and a €150 fine. A €200 fine and up to seven penalty points would apply for speeding 20-30km/h above the limit.

Those travelling more than 30km/h above the limit will no longer be dealt with under the penalty points system and instead will face prosecution for dangerous driving.

In observations in the Cabinet notes, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan also said that while An Garda Síochána “is supportive of the introduction of graduated speeding limits in principle”, it had concerns about how they could be enforced.

Effectively enforced

“The priority, from a Garda perspective, is that the introduction of graduated speeding limits must be capable of being effectively enforced,” he said.

Mr McGrath told The Irish Times he accepted Mr Ross’s argument that “speed does kill but I think some of his proposals were a bit over the top”.

“I think he has become a bogeyman. He has become a prize target for Fianna Fáil and a lot of rural TDs. I know from when I go down the country, that is the vibe I get. He is a handy political target for a lot of those people. It is very popular down the country to have a go at Shane Ross.

“He is a soft target for sections of the media, sections of the Law Library and for the rural TDs,” Mr McGrath continued.

“I do think it is a deliberate ploy but when people look at the substance of the issues, whether it is road safety and deaths and speeding, or whether it is drink-driving or whether it is rooting out political cronyism in the judicial appointments bill, I think the most sensible, balanced people would say actually, Shane and the Independent Alliance are right on those three issues.”