Twenty-two motorists have been fined a total of €205,000 after they failed to turn up to court accused of M50 toll dodging.

Des Long, of Rathsallagh Park, Shankill, Dublin, came to his hearing and faced allegations of 1,139 unpaid trips on the motorway since he bought his new van last December.

He told Judge Anthony Halpin at Dublin District Court that he had already paid €7,500 to the sheriff over outstanding tolls. However, it emerged this amount related to another vehicle that he had.

The court heard he had been sent 4,417 reminder letters over the motorway charges in his new van which incurred a toll of €5.30 each time he used the M50.

He is being prosecuted on five sample counts.

In court, Mr Long insisted he had been trying to deal with eFlow, which operates barrier free tolling on the M50 for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).

He claimed he reached an agreement over all of his toll issues. "I was clearing my name, not my vehicles," he said.

However, Judge Halpin noted from the prosecution's evidence that the money he had paid so far related to a different van and not the one subject of the proceedings in court.

The judge told Mr Long that he had delayed the matter and warned he now faced the possibility of receiving fines totalling €25,000.

"You should not be using the toll if you are not going to pay, you continued to use it," Judge Halpin added.

Mr Long's case was adjourned until a date in January.

Some 42 motorists had been summonsed to appear in court today.

Prosecutions against 22 of them went ahead in their absence resulting in hefty fines, scaled by Judge Halpin to reflect the amount of unpaid tolls in each case.

Most had records of between 100 and 200 unpaid trips. Thousands of warning letters were sent to the motorists but the majority did not reply, the court was told.

One private car owner had a history of 373 trips without paying. He had been sent 1,119 letters, and was fined €15,000.

Among them were five commercial vehicle owners - three were fined €15,000 and two were ordered to pay €10,000.

Most cases involved five sample counts.

Prosecuting counsel Thomas Rice BL said a TII official had certificates of ownership as well as the images of the vehicles passing the toll gantry on the M50, on dates from February until the end of April this year.

On top of the fines which have to be paid within six months, vehicle owners were ordered to pay up to €350 in prosecution costs.

Fines of up to €5,000 per charge as well as a sentence of up to six months can be imposed.

The court has heard the motorway authority only selected habitual non-payers to face criminal proceedings but no one has been jailed so far.

Fourteen motorists had their cases adjourned to allow TII to engage further with them.

Five others had their cases struck out after resolving their debt with the motorway operator.

The standard M50 toll for an unregistered private car is €3.10 and it must be paid before 8pm the following day. There is a €3 penalty for missing the deadline.

Motorists have 14 days from the date of issue to pay for the journey as well as the initial penalty; otherwise a further penalty of €41 is applied.

After a further 56 days there is an additional penalty charge of €103. If it remains unpaid legal proceedings follow with the possibility of a court fine of up to €5,000 as well as a jail term of six months, or both, per offence.

Commercial and goods vehicle owners have to pay higher tolls.

The registered owner of a vehicle is responsible even if they were not driving the vehicle.