Some motorists may have wrongly spent time in prison, committee hears

119 legal firms contacted Garda about clients caught up in fixed charge notice errors

Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn said it is  possible persons who opted not to pay a fine did end up in prison “and we are working with the court services and the individual solicitors to identify those cases”. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn said it is possible persons who opted not to pay a fine did end up in prison “and we are working with the court services and the individual solicitors to identify those cases”. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Some motorists caught up in the botched operation of the penalty points system may have spent time in prison as a result and the State is facing resultant civil actions, it has emerged.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn has revealed 119 solicitors firms had already contacted the Garda about the adverse implications for their clients after being caught up in fixed charge notice system errors.

He told the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice on Wednesday that he believed nobody was sentenced to a prison term on the basis of one single fixed charge notice (FCN) error.

However, he then conceded some motorists who were arrested because they had never paid fines may have spent some time in prison. And now the State may face civil actions over such cases.

Mr Finn did not elaborate but it appears the people who may have ended up in prison were those who gardaí believed should be arrested because they had refused to pay fines sent to them.

However, because of errors in the FCN system the fines were never sent to them in the postal service. Or fines and/or summonses were sent to some motorists when they should not have been.

“Nobody went to jail specifically for one single, what I like to call, FCN-type offence,” Mr Finn said.

“Anybody who was in court and subsequently ended up in prison was there for a multitude of other issues and a FCN might have been one of the offences.”

However, he said it was possible some motorists spent time in prison over not paying fines.

“It is possible that persons who opted not to pay the fine did end up inside in prison and we are working with the court services and the individual solicitors to identify those cases,” he said.

“And there may well be civil actions in relation to that. That will follow in tandem with the process of clearing up the cases. The solicitors are in touch with us and we are engaged with them.

“I’ve no doubt there will be court cases and we will deal with them... openly, honestly and fairly,” he said, adding the State Claims Agency was also involved.