Shane Ross’s speeding penalties proposals are unworkable, experts say

Attorney General and Minister for Justice had already raised concerns about the plans

Legal experts have raised concerns about proposals by Minister for Transport Shane Ross for graduated speeding penalties. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Legal experts have raised concerns about proposals by Minister for Transport Shane Ross for graduated speeding penalties. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Proposals by Minister for Transport Shane Ross for graduated speeding penalties are unworkable in their current form, legal experts believe.

Mr Ross has brought plans to Cabinet for higher fines and more penalty points for speeding motorists depending on their speed over the limit.

It is envisaged that drivers travelling up to 10km/h above the speed limit would receive between three and five penalty points and an €80 fine.

Drivers detected travelling at speeds 10- 20km/h above the limit would receive between four and six points and a €150 fine. A €200 fine and up to seven penalty points would apply for speeding 20-30km/h above the limit.

Those travelling more than 30km/h above the limit would no longer be dealt with under the penalty points system and instead would face prosecution for dangerous driving.

Significant unfairness

In their current form the proposals could bring about significant unfairness in the prosecution of speeding offences, said barrister David Staunton, the author of the legal text Drunk Driving.

“Ten kilometres over the limit in a 50 zone is obviously not the same as 10 kilometres over the limit on a motorway,” he said.

“Being slightly over the limit on a motorway is drastically different to speeding in a school zone or built-up area.”

He said in order to be proportional, the laws would have to be percentage based. For example, being 10 per cent over the speed limit would attract a smaller penalty than being 20 per cent over the limit.

Evan O’Dwyer, a Co Mayo solicitor specialising in road traffic law, said the proposals would also open up more legal loopholes for motorists to exploit.

“It sounds like a good idea but you have to look at what will actually happen when it comes to court,” Mr O’Dwyer said.

“Right now it’s a black and white situation. You’re either over the speed limit or you’re not.” Mr Dwyer said the proposed rules would result in motorists admitting they were over the limit but not by the amount claimed by the prosecution.

“It will open up a whole can of worms of people complaining they were on a lower tier rather than the higher tier. It’s more resources and more time-wasting.”

The authorities should be trying to “simplify the enforcement process” instead of making it more complex, he said. “It should be the role of the legislators to try to limit the opportunities for people to challenge a new law.”

Speed cameras

However Mr Staunton said he believed the proposals could work with some changes. “It’s not unfathomable. You wouldn’t need a massively complex system to enforce it.”

The current speed cameras are accurate enough to detect the exact speed a car is going, he said.

The barrister also pointed out that graduated penalties already exist for drink-driving offences.

Attorney General Séamus Woulfe and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan have already raised concerns about Mr Ross’s proposals.

“There is a question as to whether it is proportionate to stipulate the penalties in this manner,” Mr Woulfe said in a Cabinet memo. “10km/h over the speed limit in a 120km/h zone might not represent as big a danger or as intentional a wrongdoing as the same breach in a 30km/h zone.”

Mr Flanagan said there were concerns about the ability of gardaí to enforce graduated penalties.