Loophole lets 85,000 drivers avoid points

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A LEGISLATIVE change to close a loophole that allowed more than 80,000 drivers escape penalty points is not working, it has emerged.

This is because the administrative work to provide for the change has not been completed five months after it was signed into law. Section 63 of the Road Traffic Act (2010) came into force in October and requires a person appearing in court charged with a road traffic offence to bring their licence and a photocopy of their licence so penalty points can be applied to their licence on conviction.

As of last August, at least 85,000 Irish licence-holders had escaped points because drivers had not been legally required to bring licences to court. Less than 25 per cent bring their licence.

However, the change in the law has had a negligible impact because the wording on the summons sheet has not been changed to include the requirement to bring the licence. Also, the Courts Service has yet to introduce IT changes to allow it record licence numbers and whether or not a licence was produced.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport expressed frustration, saying the legislation was in force and it was “now up to the Courts Service to do its bit”.

Just 1,368 penalty point records have been sent to the National Vehicle Driver File by the Courts Services since the law was introduced almost five months ago.

Susan Gray of Public Against Road Carnage (Parc) said it was unacceptable some of the most dangerous drivers could avoid points by going to court and failing to produce their licence. “More compliant drivers accepting their penalty points for lesser offences and thereby negating the need for a court appearance, have a greater likelihood of reaching the 12 points and losing their licence,” she said.

Ms Gray called on the Ministers for Justice and Transport to ensure the problems are resolved immediately. “This loophole was discovered and discussed by the authorities as far back as 2008 so the time for talking is over.”

According to the Department of Transport, as of August 2011, some 85,709 Irish driving licence holders “did not have any driving licence particulars in court, or they were not available for recording following court proceedings” and penalty points were not recorded on their licence.

Ms Gray said this total had since increased and that Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar told Parc last year over 100,000 drivers had been convicted but not had penalty points applied.

In response to a parliamentary question, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the Courts Service was “in the process of introducing new procedures which will enhance their ability to record not only the driving licence number but also to record . . . whether the licence is produced or not”.

The Courts Services said work on adding the requirement to bring a licence to court to the wording of the summons and upgrading its IT systems has started, although it was unable to say when it would be complete.

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