'Ignoring system' gives 86% chance of evading conviction for speeding

Thursday 19 June 2014 20.05
Retired Chief Supt John O'Brien said only 14% of cases that went to court ended up in conviction
Retired Chief Supt John O'Brien said only 14% of cases that went to court ended up in conviction

A retired chief superintendent has told the Public Accounts Committee that many of the worst offenders for speeding are evading sanction by simply ignoring the system.

John O'Brien told the committee that whilst it was the wrong message to send out to the public, if you simply ignored the system you would have a very good chance of evading sanction.

He said there was an eight-ten step process before a summons is issued, and even then only a very small percentage of summonses issued are served and an even smaller number wind up with a conviction.

He said only 14% of those that went to court ended up in conviction so you had an 86% chance of escaping by simply ignoring the system.

Mr O'Brien told the committee that he prepared a report on the fixed-charge penalty system for GSOC in 2008, which he said flagged many problems that are being highlighted now.

He said the report never saw the light of day.

PAC Chairman John McGuinness asked why judges were not asking for the licence to be presented in court to have penalty points added, when it was an offence not to bring a licence to court.

Mr O'Brien said this could perhaps arise because of the volumes of cases at court on a particular day and the points would have to be added in the district court clerk's office, not in the judge's office and there was a voluntary nature to that engagement.

Earlier the committee heard about the difficulties in serving penalty notices on vehicles that are registered to companies.

Mr O'Brien said he could not understand why photographic evidence was not used to pursue vehicles in this category.

The Secretary General of the Department of Transport, Tom O'Mahony, said in the 2010 act a new provision was included to give gardaí the power the compel companies to give them the information about who was driving a vehicle when an offence occurred. 

He said this part of the legislation had not commenced because it was linked to another piece of legislation which would give people a final chance to pay an increased fine rather than go to court once a summons had been issued.

However, it ran into difficulties as neither the courts nor the gardaí were in a position to provide the resources necessary to develop the IT systems that would be required.

He said the department was now going to make the money available so the IT systems could be developed.

He said this issue would finally be put to bed over the next year.

Keywords: penalty points