Call for judges to end giving choice of paying into poor box

Poor box option sometimes used for first-time road offences and minor drug offences

Almost 2,000 drivers have been able to avoid, over a 27-month period, conviction for driving offences, and the consequent application of penalty points on their licences

Almost 2,000 drivers have been able to avoid, over a 27-month period, conviction for driving offences, and the consequent application of penalty points on their licences

 

Judges should apply the law as enacted by the Oireachtas and end the practice of giving defendants the choice of paying into the poor box, Law Society director general Ken Murphy has said.

Almost 2,000 drivers have been able to avoid, over a 27-month period, conviction for driving offences, and the consequent application of penalty points on their licences.

Instead, judges have directed they contribute more than €2 million to courts’ poor boxes – with half of that coming from Co Kerry alone. The funds are then distributed to charities or used to help fund worthy community services.

Acknowledging the sanction, which is short of a conviction, was a long-standing convention and could be useful, Mr Murphy said: “But the Oireachtas has outlawed it in some cases and the law of the land should be applied. Ultimately, the courts are there to uphold the rule of law.”

Discretion

A legal source noted that the poor box option was sometimes used for first-time road traffic offences, minor drug offences and offences against property or animals.

“There are many reasons and instances why the court poor box is used by judges,” said the source. “The accused may never previously have been before the courts, the accused may have pleaded guilty, a conviction might be inappropriate, or might adversely affect employment, career or working abroad prospects, and or the offence may be of a minor or more trivial in nature.”

Why some judges were apparently ignoring the strictures of the 2010 Act was unclear but could simply be familiarity, said Mr Murphy.