It has emerged that nearly half of the images taken from garda cameras and videos between October 2002 and December 2003, could not be used against motorists suspected of motoring offences because they were deemed to be 'spoiled'.

In the annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, it is stated that of 107,636 films or videos, 47% could not be used to pursue the motorists suspected of having offended.

The report states that the images were spoilt because of dirty, damaged or tampered number plates and foreign-registered vehicles.

In addition, several technical problems with cameras and films were identified. Dirty lens, poor weather conditions, problems with chemical developing solution and computer related problems.

The gardaí has said that these technical difficulties have been addressed and there has been a reduction in the number of spoils recorded in the first five months of this year.

A spokesman told the CAG that the gardaí could only issue a fine and penalty points when it was in a position to stand over the matter.

Traffic Act loophole

The report also reveals that drivers of company cars who speed and commit other motoring offences are escaping penalty points because of a loophole in the Traffic Act.

On 235 occasions gardaí were unable to award penalty points to drivers because they were driving a company-owned car.

The problem is that penalty points can only be awarded to what is termed 'licence holders' - something a company is not.