RSA ‘extremely disappointed’ at drink-driving conviction rate

Review of road traffic legislation needed to clamp down on loopholes, Liz O’Donnell says

The Road Safety Authority has expressed “extreme disappointment” at figures which show only 40 per cent of drinking driving cases before the courts are resulting in convictions.

The Irish Times reported on Monday that out of more than 20,000 people due before District Courts for drink driving between January 2013 and May 2015, a total of 8,391 were convicted.

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

A spokesman for the authority said: “There is concern - we are extremely disappointed at the number of successful convictions.”


The authority’s chairwoman Liz O’Donnell has supported calls for an overhaul of road traffic legislation to help ensure there are fewer loopholes available to drivers.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe declined to comment on the figures, on the basis that convictions were a matter for the courts and the justice system.

Solicitors involved in representing clients in drink- driving cases say road traffic legislation is among the most challenged in the courts.

In addition, they say the number of “moving parts” involved in prosecuting a case means they are often vulnerable to legal challenge.

Privately, gardaí said there are also difficulties ensuring members of the force involved in a case are in court on the day of a hearing, due to resource constraints. These cases are regularly stuck out.

A recent High Court ruling also means that drink-driving cases which rely on a widely-used breathalyser are vulnerable to legal challenge.

Last September, the court dismissed a case on the basis that the defendant should have been provided with test results in English and Irish, as provided for in law.

As a result, many similar cases are being adjourned or struck out.

The figures on conviction rates were supplied to Parc, a road safety campaign group that aims to raise awareness of road safety in Ireland, through a parliamentary question tabled by Tommy Broughan TD.

Susan Gray of Parc said the figures were a damning indictment of the system’s failure to hold dangerous drivers to account for their actions.

“The system is broken and the sad fact remains that many more lives will be lost - and many other will be horribly injured as a result of this foot-dragging,” she said.

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 8.391 were convicted.

The figures show 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.

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

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent