Motorist forced to emigrate after wrongful conviction and driving ban

A motorist wrongly convicted following the fixed-charge notice scandal was imprisoned, banned from driving for five years, and forced to emigrate to find work as a result.

Gardaí have apologised and are seeking to get the conviction overturned, but no explanation was offered in their letter to the man as to how the error occurred.

It emerged this year that 14,700 people wrongly got convictions and court-imposed penalties, including the imposition of penalty points, despite never being sent a fixed-charge notice.

The latest case, which occurred in Co Cork, involved a failure to stop at a Garda checkpoint, which is covered by the fixed-charge notice system. The motorist was issued with a summons and sentenced in the district court to a month in prison. It is unclear if the offence was the only one which he was prosecuted for on the occasion, which dates from 2008.

The man, then 21, was banned from driving for five years. He served a week in prison and had to sign on for three weeks as a condition of temporary release. Subsequently, he emigrated to Australia and New Zealand because of the effect the driving ban would have on his chances of getting work.

On August 22, he received the standard letter that is being issued to the 14,700 people wrongfully convicted.

The letter, from assistant commissioner Michael Finn, sets out that “the correct procedures were not followed by An Garda Síochána in respect of the court conviction imposed on you on 04/07/2008 in relation to Fail To Stop For Garda”.

The letter apologises for the failure to follow correct procedure. There is no reference to the sanction imposed on the man at court.

His solicitor, who did not represent him in the original case, is collating all data in relation to the conviction before deciding how to proceed.

Meanwhile, the Irish Examiner understands that deputy commissioner John Twomey met with leaders of the four Garda representative associations yesterday to discuss the fallout from the breath-test scandal.

He is believed to have sought their views on how it should be addressed. It is understood they made clear their strong concerns at difficulties in identifying disciplinary offences and in proving that particular members breached discipline given the range of other factors involved in the fake breath tests.

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