Thirteen motorists have been hit with fines totalling €164,000 after they failed to appear in court and ignored warning letters for repeatedly dodging M50 tolls.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the State agency dealing with road and public transport infrastructure, prosecuted the motorists at Dublin District Court today.
However, despite being summonsed, they did not attend the hearings which went ahead in their absence.
Judge Anthony Halpin handed down fines ranging from €5,000 to €25,000, to be paid within six months.
He also ordered them to pay €350 in prosecution costs.
Twelve were regular private car owners, each with five sample counts for unpaid tolls from January to April. The court imposed fines of €15,000 in seven cases, including a motorist sent over 1,000 warning letters about 498 outstanding tolls.
One case involved a commercial vehicle owner who received the highest fine today for 216 unpaid trips on the motorway.
Each one would have cost €5.40 or just over €1,382 for all the journeys, but he was fined €25,000.
TII also revealed the motorists' overall record of unpaid charges and hundreds of warning letters sent before court proceedings commenced.
The judge noted the types of vehicles and their records of outstanding charges. In each case, he heard the number of unpaid tolls and details of the level of engagement with the motorway operators. He also noted that they failed to turn up for the proceedings despite being sent summonses.
The TII could demonstrate which motorists made efforts to pay for some journeys, and they received less severe fines.
TII posted hundreds of warning letters to most defendants before bringing the court prosecutions, which can carry a potential custodial sentence.
Prosecuting counsel Edward Doocey BL said the defendants were not in court, but Judge Halpin agreed to his application to proceed in their absence.
Counsel called on a TII witness to confirm each vehicle's ownership records, the number of passages, and payment history.
The judge heard that most did not engage with the transport agency, and some had recently ceased being owners of the cars subject to the prosecutions. However, the TII could establish they were the owners at the time of the unpaid tolls.
The court can impose fines of up to €5,000 per charge and a six-month sentence.
However, it remains the practice of the motorway authority to select habitual non-payers to face criminal proceedings.
The standard M50 toll for a private car, €3.20, has to be paid before 8pm the following day or there is a €3 penalty for missing the deadline.
Motorists get 14 days to pay for the journey and the initial penalty or face a more significant fee.
The charge ramps up after 56 days; warning letters and court proceedings follow if it remains unpaid.
Commercial and goods vehicle owners pay higher tolls. In all cases, the registered vehicle owner is liable even if they were not driving.