Challenge to Go Safe as speed cases struck out

Report sought after judge dismisses 98 cases detected by speed camera firm

 Judge Patrick Durcan: dismissed cases on the basis that Go Safe staff were unable to demonstrate the requisite legal authority for them to give evidence on behalf of gardaí in relation to speeding  cases in court. Photograph Tony Grehan/Press 22

Judge Patrick Durcan: dismissed cases on the basis that Go Safe staff were unable to demonstrate the requisite legal authority for them to give evidence on behalf of gardaí in relation to speeding cases in court. Photograph Tony Grehan/Press 22

 

The Department of Justice is to seek a report from the Garda after almost 100 speeding cases detected by Go Safe vans were dismissed by a district court judge earlier this week. The Garda also says it is “aware of the court outcome” and is assessing its implications.

Judge Patrick Durcan, sitting at Ennis District Court, dismissed 98 speeding cases on the basis that Go Safe staff were unable to demonstrate the requisite legal authority for them to give evidence on behalf of gardaí in relation to these cases in court. The judge, who has previously criticised the Go Safe camera system, also ruled there was no evidence to prove whether or not the fixed charge notices had been paid.

About 50 vans monitoring speeding are operated by the Go Safe firm which secured an €80 million Garda contract in 2009.The solicitor who took a test case leading to the dismissal of the 98 cases, Daragh Hassett, has said the State’s inability to successfully prosecute the cases reflected a fundamental legal problem with outsourcing Garda duties.

Mr Hassett told The Irish Times the ruling would likely have broader implications. He said the State could now seek a judicial review on the decision or amend legislation to factor in such future challenges. However, he said while similar defence applications could be expected following the ruling, they would not necessarily have the same outcome.

“We have been testing these cases since they came into Co Clare.” Mr Hassett added. “They are problematic because you are asking people who are not gardaí to give evidence in what is a criminal matter, and it is clear that these witnesses have less of a role in the entire investigative process than the Garda would have in similar prosecutions.

“While it may be a cheaper alternative [to outsource speed checks], the cheaper alternative may not always work.”

A Cork-based solicitor said he had already received several queries from clients as to how the case might affect their own.

A spokesman at the Department of Justice said while it could not comment on specific court cases, a report had been requested from Garda authorities regarding the broader issue of how the Road Traffic Act is enforced.

Cases regarding the Go Safe van fines had been mounting in the run-up to a separate High Court challenge. In July, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns ruled gardaí should have provided a man with a picture of his car taken by the camera before attending court.

The Road Safety Authority could not comment on the courts’ decision but cautioned that the Go Safe programme had attracted public support and delivered significant results. “It has been hugely successful and saved many lives,” said spokesman Brian Farrell.

A recent cost-benefit analysis conducted by Trinity College “showed that 23 lives are saved annually every year in this country as a result of these cameras, and 40 serious injury crashes [are prevented].”

A Garda spokesman said: “We are aware of the court outcome and we are assessing its implications.”

Meanwhile, Judge Seán MacBride at Carrickmacross District Court in Co Monaghan yesterday said the Gatso speed van system should be “consigned to the dustbin”. The judge dismissed a number of cases after hearing drivers were not informed they were in breach of the limit before receiving court summonses.