117 disqualified drivers charged under new laws

Gardaí say removal of ‘high risk’ drivers will make roads safer for all

Some 117 disqualified drivers have been arrested and charged in just six weeks since gardaí were given new powers. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Some 117 disqualified drivers have been arrested and charged in just six weeks since gardaí were given new powers. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Some 117 disqualified drivers have been arrested and charged in just six weeks since gardaí were given new powers.

Gardaí have said the new measures mean our roads are being made safer by taking high-risk drivers off the road.

Until recently, members of the force were not authorised to arrest disqualified drivers.

Instead, they were summoned to court, a process which often took many months to complete.

Disqualified drivers who remain on the road can face penalties of up to six months in prison or fines of up to €5,000.

Some road safety campaigners, however, say flaws remain in the system, given that licence numbers for thousands of drivers disqualified in court are not recorded on computer systems accessed by gardaí.

At a press conference, Chief Supdt Mark Curran of the Garda National Traffic Bureau said many of these issues either had been resolved or were in the process of being addressed.

He said that, even though gardaí did not have driver licence details for all banned drivers, they were still able to identify them through their names and addresses.

He said it was “totally unacceptable” that any drivers banned from the road should continue to flout the law.

“Since this law to arrest disqualified drivers on the spot came into operation, our members have been working hard to ensure these disqualified drivers are intercepted and removed from the roads,” he said.

Licence details

Official figures provided to the Parc road safety campaign group indicate that almost 90 per cent of the 25,000-plus drivers banned in court between 2013 and March of this year did not have their licence details recorded.

Motorists’ names and addresses were, however, recorded on the Courts Service’s “criminal case tracking system”.

This is sent to the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and accessed by gardaí.

Gardaí said that, regardless of gaps over drivers’ licence details, all disqualified motorists’ names and addresses are recorded on their computer system.

As a result, officers said it was possible to identify anyone who has been disqualified.

A spokesman for the Courts Service said it was not a part of its function to record this information and it was not required under legislation to do.

He said it was a legal obligation for drivers to surrender their licence.

However, Parc’s chairwoman, Susan Gray, said the RSA was reliant on the courts for this information so it could more easily identify which drivers have had their licences suspended.

She said the Minister for Transport has assured the group at a meeting earlier this week that the issue would be tackled as a matter or urgency.

“This is a massive problem which needs to be addressed,” she said.

Increase in arrests

The numbers being arrested in the past six weeks represent a major increase, given that a total of 235 disqualified drivers were arrested in the first six months of this year.

In recent weeks, gardaí have found that many disqualified drivers were also active criminals, with multiple convictions for a range of offences. Many of their vehicles were also seized because they were uninsured.

Of the 117 drivers arrested in recent weeks, seven have been convicted and have recorded penalties such as community service, additional periods of disqualifications and prison terms. The remainder are due before the courts.

Chief Supdt Curran said: “The prison sentences imposed to date send out a very clear message that should be heeded by any disqualified driver. Do not drive if you are disqualified.”