Concerns about ‘undelivered’ fixed-charge penalty notices repeated in 2016 review

Judge Matthew Deery also notes legislation recommended by Garda unit not introduced

Judge Matthew Deery: has highlighted the “substantial number” of FCNs that were returned, as they could not be delivered to drivers. Photograph: Courtpix

Judge Matthew Deery: has highlighted the “substantial number” of FCNs that were returned, as they could not be delivered to drivers. Photograph: Courtpix

 

The return of a “substantial number” of Garda fixed-charge penalty notices as “undelivered” remains of concern, the latest report on the fixed charge system has found.

And legislation, recommended in 2014 by the Garda Professional Standards Unit to help improve enforcement, has not yet been produced, retired president of the Circuit Court Judge Matthew Deery has found.

In his two-page report to Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, the judge “noted that the suspension of the statutory time limit of 28 days, in circumstances where FCNs [fixed charge notices] are returned ‘Undelivered – An Post’ has not yet occurred”.

FCNs are issued to drivers detected as having committed certain driving offences, such as speeding. Drivers can pay the fixed charge or fine as an alternative to going to court, but must pay within 28 days.

In 2014, in the wake of a review of penalty points cancellations, a new centralised penalty points cancellation system was established.

The new fixed-charge processing systems office, based in Thurles, Co Tipperary, aimed to improve the enforcement and operation of the penalty points system and enhance oversight.

Fixed-charge notices may now only be cancelled by a chief superintendent or superintendents of the Garda National Traffic Bureau or by a superintendent at the Thurles office.

Judge Deery was appointed as the sole independent oversight authority for the system in 2015.

Implementation

In his 2016 report, published by Ms Fitzgerald on Wednesday, the judge said the implementation of most of the recommendations of the Garda Professional Standards Unit had “immensely strengthened the system”.

He reviewed a sample of cancellations of fixed-charge notices where discretion was used and said he “would not disagree with the manner of the exercise of the discretion”. He also said there were very few of these cases.

He highlighted the “substantial number” of FCNs that were returned, as they could not be delivered to drivers. Repeating a finding he made in his 2015 report, the judge said the issue was “of some concern”.

He noted there had been three additional enforcement units established, and this had resulted in an improvement in compliance with the system.

But the judge noted that the legislation had not been changed. He also said gardaí had to rely on the national vehicle register file from the Department of Transport to identify the registered owner of vehicles.

Satisfied

Overall, he said he was satisfied there had been substantial compliance with the policy for the FCN processing system.

Ms Fitzgerald said the judge’s finding greatly assisted in maximising enforcement of the fixed-charge processing system, which would improve road safety for all.

Asked about the changes in legislation that had yet to be introduced, a Department of Justice spokesman said legislative recommendations were submitted to the Criminal Justice (Fixed Charge Processing System) Working Group. These were “standing items on the group’s agenda and are being kept under ongoing review”, he said.