Penalty points loopholes are closed by new summonses

The two loopholes allowed thousands of drivers to avoid points for road traffic offences

Two loopholes that allowed thousands of drivers to avoid penalty points after committing road traffic offences have been closed. File photograph: Frank Miller

Two loopholes that allowed thousands of drivers to avoid penalty points after committing road traffic offences have been closed. File photograph: Frank Miller

 

Two loopholes that allowed thousands of drivers to avoid penalty points after committing road traffic offences have been closed by the introduction of new wording on court summonses.

The requirement to change the wording in relation to one of the loopholes was first flagged in November 2015 following a court judgment.

Legislation has been in place since October 2011 requiring drivers to bring their licences to court and it is an offence for a convicted driver not to produce a licence in court. But the offence has not been prosecutable because summonses issued did not warn drivers of the consequences of failing to bring a licence.

The loophole meant drivers could appear in court, be found guilty of an offence, but fail to produce a licence and avoid having penalty points imposed on them.

A second loophole, which involved drivers claiming they did not receive their fixed-charge penalty notice in the post, has also been closed.

Fixed-charge penalty notices notify drivers they have been detected committing an offence, such as speeding. They are given an opportunity to pay a fine and accept penalty points without going to court. If a notice is ignored, a court summons issues and any penalty imposed is higher than on the original notice.

Some drivers had attended court and given evidence that they never received the notice and so could not avail of the lesser penalty. In many cases, judges accepted their evidence.

Last opportunity

The new court summonses include a copy of the fixed-charge penalty notice on its reverse, giving drivers a last opportunity to avoid a court appearance. A driver will have seven days before the date of his or her court appearance to pay the fixed charge and if that is done, the name will not be added to the court list.

Susan Gray, of the Parc road safety group, welcomed the introduction of the new summonses. “It closes two serious loopholes, one going back to 2010,” she said. “We will watch developments closely.”

People who have been issued with the new summonses are likely to begin appearing in court this month.

The wording on the front of the summons now states: “You should bring your driving licence or learner permit to court. If you are convicted the judge will require you to produce your licence or learner permit. If you fail to produce your licence or permit you will be guilty of an offence and may be liable to a fine and/or imprisonment.”

In 2015, gardaí took prosecutions in court against 21 drivers who had failed to produce licences when convicted of speeding or of holding a mobile phone while driving.

Judge Marie Keane dismissed the cases. She said conviction for failing to bring your licence to court carried a significant penalty and a person who comes before the court is entitled to know precisely what they are charged with and the outcome of any successful prosecution.