New penalties for hit-and-run drivers
Jail term of up to 10 years for fleeing scene but no increased time limit for blood tests
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar: “The late taking of specimens is not scientifically valuable.” Photograph: Inpho/Dan Sheridan
Prison sentences will increase to a maximum of 10 years, up from six months, for leaving the scene, for what will be an indictable rather than summary offence. The financial penalty will increase from €2,000 currently to €5,000.
Mr Varadkar confirmed his support for the proposal introduced in the Dáil yesterday by Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Timmy Dooley in his Road Traffic Bill.
However, the Minister refused a second part of the Bill to give gardaí up to 24 hours after such an incident, rather than the current three-hour maximum, to test alleged offenders for drugs and alcohol. He said “the late taking of specimens is not scientifically valuable”.
Mr Dooley welcomed the Government’s acceptance of the increased sentence, which he described as a victory for constructive politics.
The provision will be included in an amendment to the Road Traffic Amendment (No 2) Bill. Mr Dooley expressed the hope it would ultimately become known as “Shane’s law” in memory of trainee barrister Shane O’Farrell from Co Monaghan (23) who was killed in a hit-and-run incident in 2011. The motorist, Zigimantis Gridzuiska (39), was given the option of eight months’ imprisonment or a return to his home country of Lithuania. He opted to return home.
Mr O’Farrell’s family has campaigned for changes to the law. Mr Dooley said “we will have done something for the family and the families of many other citizens who lost their lives in such tragic circumstances”.
Independent TD Finian McGrath said the O’Farrell family had been let down by the justice system as a number of hit-and-run incidents had occurred before their son’s death.
Independent TD Catherine Murphy warned there was no point in making good laws if there were insufficient resources to enforce them.
Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley said there were fewer than 333,000 roadside breath tests this year, compared with 470,000 for the same period last year.