Flaw in cross-Border ban on NI drink-drivers fixed, says RSA

Bans on northern drivers cannot be applied here until new legislation is implemented

Changes to legislation in Britain means authority unable to take new cases to ban drink-drivers in the North from driving here. Photograph: Frank Miller

Changes to legislation in Britain means authority unable to take new cases to ban drink-drivers in the North from driving here. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

A flaw in procedures to ban drink-drivers convicted in Northern Ireland from driving in the Republic, identified by a Circuit Court judgment on Tuesday, has “already been revised”, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has said.

A spokesman for the authority said when the appeal was lodged more than a year ago, the authority changed its procedures to take account of it and the case will have no effect on applications already in the system.

However, the authority will be unable to take any new cases to ban drink-drivers in Northern Ireland from driving here, because of a change to legislation in Britain.

Martin Holmes of Sandy Row, Castlefinn, Co Donegal, pleaded guilty to a drink-driving offence at Omagh Magistrates Court, Co Tyrone, in 2014 and was banned from driving.

A District Court in Donegal subsequently applied the ban to the Republic also, on foot of an application made by the RSA, under an EU directive on cross-border driver disqualifications.

Mr Holmes appealed that decision to the Circuit Court.

Wording

Judge John O’Hagan

Brian Farrell, communications manager with the authority, said the appeal was upheld on the grounds the wording used by the solicitor in the citation of the summons to the District Court indicated it was a “summons”, when in fact it was really just a “notification” of an application being made.

“When the appeal was originally lodged, we became aware of it as an issue and we changed tack,” he said.

“We started immediately implementing notifications based on not citing it as a summons and ceasing that terminology and bringing it forward as a notification application.”

Mr Farrell said there have been cases taken subsequently using the corrected terminology. “We haven’t had any problems with those and they have gone through and the disqualification has been recognised.”

More than 300 such cases have been taken since 2010. But separately last year, legislators in Britain pulled out of the EU directive on cross-border driver disqualifications. They will instead be introducing national legislation, Mr Farrell said. And Ireland will also be required to introduce new legislation.

This means the authority will not be able to apply to have newly made British driving bans recognised here until both sets of legislation are in place.

Mr Farrell said there will be a hiatus in the process, but applications already in the system, before Britain pulled out of the legislation, will go ahead.