Gardaí to target areas with ‘acute instances’ of banned drivers on the roads

Licences should be taken off motorists ‘there and then in court’, says Independent TD

Independent TD Tommy  Broughan said 83,000 licences of banned drivers in the past eight years had not been surrendered. File photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Independent TD Tommy Broughan said 83,000 licences of banned drivers in the past eight years had not been surrendered. File photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

Gardaí will search for disqualified drivers in specific areas of the country where there may be “acute instances” of banned motorists using invalid licences, as part of interim enforcement measures.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said 2,000 hand-held devices at a cost of €1.5 million would be in place by the end of the year, which will enable officers to immediately ascertain if a driver they stop has a valid licence.

The smartphone system will allow a photo to be taken of a licence or data to be input manually and “front-line gardaí will be immediately notified as to whether the licence is valid or not”.

But in an interim campaign, officers will assist local enforcement by targeting disqualified drivers “in particular local geographical areas where there may be acute instances of what are totally unacceptable practices”.

Mr Flanagan was responding in the Dáil to Independent TD Tommy Broughan who said it was “past time that the RSA [Road Safety Authority], gardaí, courts service and IT systems worked together coherently to end this problem once and for all”.

He said it was time for the State to follow Northern Ireland where licences are surrendered “there and then in court”.

Mr Broughan said 83,000 licences of banned drivers in the past eight years had not been surrendered. He said such motorists “are involved in between 11 and 14 deaths every year and 500 banned drivers were involved in serious crashes in a two-year period in the middle of this decade”.

He pointed out that in 2016 the number of drivers banned by the courts from driving was 8,296 but only 1,035 licences were surrendered. The number of motorists with penalty-point disqualifications in the same year was 1,054 but only 476 licences were surrendered. The Dublin Bay North TD said the most recent figures were “similarly dire”.

The Minister acknowledged that the numbers were “nothing short of shocking and I agree we need to act to ensure this is dealt with speedily and comprehensively”.

But he said the failure to surrender a licence “does not necessarily mean that a person continues to drive during the period of disqualification”.

He said the 2,000 devices would be issued by the end of the year. But he added that it was “crucial that the data which underpin these services are up to date” and said An Garda Síochána was continuing to work to achieve this with the Department of Transport which holds the driving licences data.