More than half of drink drivers escape conviction

Statistics contrast with 97 per cent conviction recorded in courts in England and Wales

Only 40 per cent of drink driving cases listed before the country’s District Courts since January 2013 resulted in convictions, new figures show.

And for the first five months of 2015, the figure was 28 per cent, according to data released by the Department of Justice.

The conviction rate compares unfavourably with England and Wales, where 97 per cent of drink driving cases brought before magistrates’ courts result in conviction.

In one court in Ireland, not a single person accused of drink driving was convicted, and in another, there were convictions in only 10 per cent of cases.


Of those convicted, only 20 per cent had their licence numbers recorded in court for endorsement. In some areas, no one had their licences recorded. The Road Safety Authority and Garda need the licence numbers of those disqualified in court to help them easily identify people suspended from driving.

Over the limit

People are brought before the District Court after they have tested positive for being over the alcohol limit using breath, blood or urine tests. Overall, between January 2013 and May 2015, more than 20,000 people were due before District Courts for drink driving, and 6,709 were convicted.

Co Kerry courts had the lowest conviction rate, at 29 per cent. In Cahirciveen, six convictions resulted from 40 cases; in Kenmare the figure was 11 out of 40. And of 168 cases before Listowel District Court, 44 ended in conviction.

The highest conviction rate was in Offaly, at 68 per cent.

In Castlerea, Co Roscommon, 68 people were listed over the 2½ years; only seven were convicted. And of 21 cases listed in Cill Rónáin District Court, on Inishmore, Co Galway, there was only one conviction.

In Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, eight people were due before the courts for the offence in 2013. There were no convictions. The court has since closed.

Road safety

Just over a quarter of drink driving cases at Newcastle West in Limerick, Lismore, Co Waterford, Carrick-on- Suir, Co Tipperary and Carndonagh, Co Donegal resulted in conviction.

In Ballyhaunis, Cill Rónáin, Kenmare, Ardee, Co Louth, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, and Edenderry, Co Offaly, of those convicted of drink driving, none had their licence numbers recorded.

The figures were supplied to Parc, a group that aims to raise awareness of road safety in Ireland, through a parliamentary question tabled by Tommy Broughan TD. They include some cases listed before the courts but not yet finalised, and some summonses that have not been served, the Department of Justice said.

Some of the cases have also been adjourned pending an appeal of a High Court decision, which found regulations required drivers to be given results of their breathalyser test in both Irish and English.

Susan Gray, founder of Parc, backed Mr Broughan's call for an entire review of the penalty point system.

“We believe that this must include a root and branch examination of how the courts and the RSA follow up on the good work of An Garda Síochána,” she said. “We also call for a consolidation of the Road Traffic Acts to make it easier to follow and less prone to loopholes.”

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist