Court ruling may lead to dismissal of many speeding cases

Friday 11 July 2014 22.46
Case was taken by a man summonsed for allegedly doing 93km/hr in an 80km/hr zone
Case was taken by a man summonsed for allegedly doing 93km/hr in an 80km/hr zone

A High Court ruling today may mean a large number of speeding summonses could be dismissed.

President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns found gardaí should have provided a man summonsed for speeding with a photograph taken of his car on the day of the alleged offence before he was brought before the District Court.

He was giving his ruling in a case taken by Michael Gilvarry, Killalla, Co Mayo, who was summonsed for allegedly doing 93km/hr in an 80km/hr zone in Ballina on 30 October, 2011.

He argued the law required that before he could be convicted there had to be evidence before the court that he had been served before his trial with a photograph to show it was his car involved in the alleged offence.

Today, Mr Justice Kearns said it was insufficient, when dealing with a mandatory provision of the 2010 Road Traffic Act, for a garda to simply state that it is "normal or usually the case" that a photo is included with the summons.

"There must be evidence that it has in fact been given to an accused person before the trial commences", he said.

This evidential shortfall can be "easily remedied" if the statutory declaration under which a summons is served on a person were also to state that a "permanent visual record" is attached [to the summons] and had been served on a defendant prior to trial, he said.

The judge dismissed two other grounds under which Mr Gilvarry brought his challenge.

He said it was not necessary that the District Court should be provided with a copy of the contract between the Department of Justice and the Go Safe private company which operates speed detection vans.  

It was sufficient for the court to be given evidence that such a contract exists.

He also dismissed the argument that the photograph which is taken by the Go Safe vans is tainted by virtue of having to been enhanced, or blown up, after it is downloaded through the computer system.

The court heard the Gilvarry case has implications for a large number of other cases in the west of Ireland which have been on hold since District Judge Mary Devins referred these legal questions to the High Court for clarification.

Legal sources said today many of those pending cases could now be dismissed depending on what stage they are at in the system.