Loophole allowing drivers to escape penalty points may not be closed until next year

150,000 drivers summonsed to court over penalty points not prosecuted

Drivers are currently required to pay a fixed-charge notice for penalty points within 28 days . Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Drivers are currently required to pay a fixed-charge notice for penalty points within 28 days . Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Government plans to close a loophole that allows tens of thousands of people to escape conviction for penalty points offences are unlikely to be in place for up to a year.

The Irish Times reported yesterday that four out of five drivers summonsed to court over penalty points offences are escaping conviction.

Since January 2013, nearly 150,000 drivers were not convicted for reasons including not being served with a summons at the correct address or claiming to have never received a fixed- charge notice in the post.

Yesterday, Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said it was unacceptable that so many individuals were escaping conviction.

While penalty points were successfully applied in most cases, he said far too many people who go to court for serious road-traffic offence were escaping conviction.

But moves to make it more difficult for drivers to claim they never received a fixed-charge notice are unlikely to be in place until the middle or end of 2016.

Drivers are currently required to pay a fixed-charge notice for penalty points within 28 days or face an increased fine within 56 days of the offence. A failure to pay within this timeframe results in a court summons.

Never received

Fixed-charge fines for penalty points are typically sent through the regular post, rather than registered post, making it difficult to prove a driver received the notice.

To combat this, State agencies have discussed plans to attach a “third payment option” to a court summons, which is provided for under Section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010.

Susan Gray, chairwoman of the Parc road safety group, said it was outrageous that the loophole remained for drivers, even though officials have been aware of the problem for the past five years.

“We’re calling on the Government to tackle this now,” she said. “There is no fairness in a system where some offenders put their hands up, pay the fine and accept their penalty points and a hike in insurance. Meanwhile, thousands are evading points by claiming they didn’t receive the notice.”

Serving summons

Separately, a new database to match motorists’ driving licences with vehicle registrations is to be prepared by the Government.

The move is aimed at clamping down on the number of motorists who avoid penalty points by not having their licences with them when they appear in court for offences, including speeding, and driving while using a mobile phone.