Co Wexford had the best record overall in its dealing with offences involving holding a mobile phone while driving, new data shows.
It was in the top four in terms of convictions, gardaí in Wexford excelled at serving summonses and, in its two District Courts, in Gorey and Wexford Town, it had the second-highest level of licence numbers recorded.
Of the 358 people listed in Wexford courts for driving while holding a mobile phone, 46 per cent were convicted. Only 16 per cent of drivers’ cases were struck out because summonses were not served. And of those who were convicted, 85 per cent of drivers had their licence numbers recorded in court.
Wexford also came out well from the recent breath-test scandal. While nationally, gardaí falsely reported almost one million fake breath tests over a five-year period, the discrepancy between tests carried out and figures recorded in Wexford was only 5 per cent.
The raw data on mobile phone offences, supplied to Independents 4 Change TD Tommy Broughan by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, covered January 2015 to March 2017, and was analysed by road safety group Parc.
It showed that 12,143 people were listed for the offence of holding a mobile phone while driving in district courts around the country over that period.
The number of people convicted was 4,428 and the figure for “persons not convicted” was 1,224. There were also 3,566 people whose cases were struck out because summonses were not served. A further 3,036 people had cases struck out for other reasons, including for errors in summonses and non-appearance of gardaí.
While these figures would suggest a conviction level of 36 per cent, the Courts Service has said only the numbers of those convicted and not convicted should be used to calculate a conviction rate, as these are the only cases in which judges consider the evidence. If only these figures are used, and all struck out cases are excluded, the conviction rate is 78 per cent.
Listed to appear
Offaly had the highest level of convictions as a percentage of people listed to appear. Of 131 people listed before the county’s only court in Tullamore, 77, or almost 60 per cent, were convicted. Kildare had a figure of 51 per cent, Westmeath had 50 per cent and Wexford had 49 per cent.
But in Kerry, of 389 people listed for the offence, only 59, or 15 per cent, were convicted. The figure in Leitrim was 17 per cent and it was 24 per cent in Tipperary.
Summons-serving also varied widely nationwide. Wexford (16 per cent), Mayo (17 per cent) and Clare (17 per cent) had low levels of people whose cases were struck out for failure to serve a summons.
At the other end of the spectrum, in Monaghan, of 190 people with cases listed over the 27-month period, half were struck out because summonses were not served. In Leitrim, the figure was 42 per cent, and in Tipperary it was 39 per cent.
Susan Gray, founder of Parc, asked how, if Wexford gardaí could "achieve a summons-serving rate of 84 per cent", gardaí in many other counties showed "such a poor performance".
“We need an explanation from the Minister for Justice and An Garda Síochána,” she said.