Big differences in conviction rates for speeding, figures show

Cavan District Court rate is 13% but in Tullamore it is 60% for same 27-month period

There are major disparities between conviction rates for speeding offences in different district court areas, figures show. File photograph: Getty Images

There are major disparities between conviction rates for speeding offences in different district court areas, figures show. File photograph: Getty Images

 

There are large disparities between conviction rates for speeding offences in different district court areas, new figures have revealed.

Just over one in eight people who came before Cavan District Court for speeding offences between January 2013 and March 2015 received convictions, meaning it had the lowest conviction rate of any district court across the country during that period.

Of the 263 drivers accused of speeding who came before Cavan District Court over the 27-month period, only 35 received convictions - rate of just more than 13 per cent.

It was followed by the neighbouring district court area of Virginia, where a quarter of cases involving drivers allegedly caught speeding resulted in convictions, compared to the national average of 46 per cent. In Virginia, 65 out of 261 cases resulted in convictions.

Among the courts where drivers were most likely to be convicted of speeding offences between 2013 and early 2015 were Bray and Tullamore, which had conviction rates of 58 per cent and 60 per cent respectively.

There were 248 convictions from 431 cases in Bray District Court, and 251 convictions out of 415 in Tullamore, both of which had conviction rates of more than 50 per cent in all available data from 2013, 2014 and the early part of 2015.

Other areas where drivers were less likely to be penalised included Trim, where 26 per cent of 255 cases resulted in convictions, Nenagh, which showed similar outcomes for its 361 cases, and Kilrush, where all six drivers brought before the court in early 2015 avoided a fine.

Discretion of judges

As with all motoring offences, each speeding case is dealt with on its merits and the outcome is at the discretion of presiding judges based on the evidence they are presented with.

Informed sources say some legal precedents set in the courts over recent years have complicated the criteria for conviction on a speeding offence - particularly a 2014 decision by Clare District Court Judge Patrick Durcan that staff of Go Safe speed camera vans cannot give evidence on behalf of gardaí.

This is reflected in a high percentage of speeding cases being dismissed or struck out by courts across various counties including Cavan, Meath, Clare, Limerick and Tipperary.

Three quarters of alleged speeding offences were either struck out or dismissed without the Probation Act being applied in Cavan, along with 73 per cent of such cases in Nenagh and 71 per cent in Trim.

Question by Tommy Broughan

The figures were released by the Courts Service on foot of a parliamentary question from Independent TD Tommy Broughan, and they also showed that some courts are still frequently requesting donations to the poor box - despite legislation banning the practice.

Out of 177 speeding cases which came before Ballyshannon District Court in Donegal between January 2013 and March 2015, 49 resulted in orders to donate to the court poor box, for instance.

Among the other consistent users of the poor box system over the 27-month period were judges in Dungarvan and Mallow District Courts, with nearly a quarter of all defendants in speeding cases asked to make donations in both jurisdictions.

Orders to donate to the poor box dropped from 1,034 nationwide in 2013 to 619 in 2014 as judges were encouraged to move away from the practice.