Byrne: Watchdog alarmed at how courts deal with driving offences
on 23/09/2013 00:00:00
He claimed some courts were not enforcing the requirement for drivers to produce their driving licence in court, despite the fact the Oireachtas has passed legislating requiring the courts to do so and making it a specific offence not to produce a licence.
Figures released by the Courts Service show more than half of all motorists convicted of road traffic offences between March and June this year failed to produce their driving licence in court.
Just 1,833 out of 4,072 drivers were recorded as showing their driving licence to a judge - a rate of 45%.
The Courts Service has also confirmed there have been no prosecutions to date for failing to produce a driving licence in court.
In a letter sent to Justice Minister Alan Shatter on May 31 last, in which he also criticised overall enforcement levels of road traffic legislation by gardaí, Mr Byrne asked the minister to intervene with the Courts Service on the issue.
The RSA chairman called for gardaí to be provided with information on cases where licences weren't produced in order to follow up on such motorists.
He also recommended the Government should remove as many motoring offences as possible out of the courts system into a fixed charge notice system. Mr Byrne said fixed charge notices were a proven deterrent and a very cost effective way of dealing with the enforcement of road traffic legislation.
In reply to a parliamentary question from Dublin North-East TD Tommy Broughan last week, Mr Shatter said the Courts Service had put in place arrangements to ensure summonses issued since May 2012 advised motorists charged with road traffic offences to bring their driving licence and a photocopy of the licence when attending a court hearing.
Mr Shatter said he had been informed that the Courts Service had communicated with judges "to facilitate an arrangement" with defendants to request them to produce their licence.
The minister said court registrars have also been asked to record whether or not a driving licence and photocopy were produced in court.
Mr Shatter said the Courts Service had reported an increase in the number of driving licences produced in court by people charged with road traffic offences this year.
Figures released by the Courts Service show an average of 45% of motorists convicted of road traffic offences produced their driving licence in court over a four-month period in 2013 compared to an average of less than 27% last year.