Post-dating of fixed penalty driving offence notice was lawful, High Court rules

Lawyer for man prosecuted for drink-driving had urged District Court to dismiss the case

The District Court then asked the High Court to decide legal issues arising from the case.

The District Court then asked the High Court to decide legal issues arising from the case.

 

Post-dating a driving offence fixed penalty notice with a date one day after it was sent out is lawful, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice Max Barrett found the State was entitled to post-date a fixed penalty notice posted to a man prosecuted for drink-driving.

Brian Tuohey (24) had claimed the post-dating of his notice did not comply with the law.

Mr Tuohey, Loughcutra, Gort, Co Galway, had not paid the notice and had to go to the District Court to fight it.

His lawyer urged the District Court to dismiss the case on the basis that the one day post-dating of the notice sent to Mr Tuohy did not comply with the law.

The District Court then asked the High Court to decide legal issues arising from the case.

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Barrett found the post-dating involved did not breach the relevant statutory provisions or present an issue as regards the law more generally.

Mr Tuohey was arrested for suspected drink-driving in Barrack Street, Gort, Co Galway, on July 23rd, 2017, after gardaí spotted him driving without his lights on at about 3am. He later gave a breath-alcohol reading in the local Garda station of 39 microgrammes per 100 militres of breath.

As this was at the lower end of the scale, it meant his prosecution could be dealt with by way of a fixed penalty notice whereby he was to pay a €400 fine and be automatically disqualified from driving for six months.

He did not pay and was summoned to court where the penalties on conviction are higher, including a one or two year driving ban depending on whether it is a first offence.

The DPP, argued the post-dating by one day was to ensure a person was given the maximum 28 days to pay the fine and to facilitate them in avoiding having to go to court. There was no breach of statutory procedure and was done to afford an accused as much fairness as possible.

Mr Tuohey’s side argued this was the result of a “settled and deliberate policy” not provided for in law. The notice was invalid because the document was misleading on its face, it was claimed.

Mr Justice Barrett said there was “simply no error of law” in this case.

Mr Tuohey benefitted from the post-dating of the notice. Although the post-dating process was not expressly contemplated by law it neither undermines the operation of the statutory regime, involves any level of error, nor contaminates the prosecution process, he said.