Ten motorists accused of dodging M50 tolls were hit with fines totalling almost €100,000 today.
The penalties ranging from €3,000 to €22,000 were handed down by Judge Anthony Halpin at Dublin District Court.
One motorist who allegedly used Ireland’s busiest motorway 800 times without paying had a bench warrant issued for his arrest after he failed to turn up to for his trial.
He is contesting his case and has instructed a solicitor to defend him.
In all the prosecutions which resulted in the €97,000 in fines imposed today, none of the motorists who had been summonsed came to court.
Cases against them went ahead in their absence.
Judge Halpin imposed smaller fines on some motorists who made efforts to pay their tolls but said, “The people who disregard it totally are fined heaviest, they have no regard whatsoever”.
In one case he adjourned he granted legal aid and said this was due to the seriousness of the offence.
The barrier-free toll motorway is operated by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).
Judge Halpin said the authority was in charge of maintaining the roads and he warned, “If people want to use certain roads they have to pay; if they don’t, the penalties are quite high”.
Each case finalised today featured five sample counts and photo evidence of how many times the defendants’ vehicles had been detected using the motorway without paying the charge.
The court heard the prosecution evidence showed the passage of the vehicles, mostly private cars, on the motorway on dates in May, August, October and November 2018, as well as proof of vehicle ownership at the time.
Vehicle owners were given six months to pay the fines as well up to €350 in prosecution costs.
Prosecuting counsel Thomas Rice BL (instructed by Pierse Fitzgibbon Solicitors) said a TII official had certificates of ownership as well as images of the vehicles passing the toll gantry on the M50.
The court can impose fines of up to €5,000 per charge as well as a sentence of up to six months.
Nicole Spellman, of 19 Kilcarrig Green, Fettercairn, Tallaght, Dublin was fined €22,000, the highest amount in the list of cases today.
Judge Halpin heard she was sent about 1,300 letters in relation to 446 unpaid M50 tolls and there were no payments.
Adrian Frandes, trading as Roomheat, with an address at 12 Whitechurch Close, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16 was fined €3,000.
The court heard the TII would have sent him just over 600 letters about the unpaid charges.
His vehicle had a history of 174 passages with no payment received.
Oleg Gherman, of 63 Innisfree, Stepaside Lane, Sandyford, Dublin, had a car with history of 156 trips on the M50 with three payments, the last being on July 31.
Judge Halpin heard this defendant would have been contacted by post 450 times by TII.
He received fines totalling €5,000.
Ronan Rattigan of 2 Templeview Avenue, Clarehall, Dublin 13 was fined €10,000 for his five sample counts.
The court was told his vehicle had a history of 141 passages and no payments.
Elena Ershova, with an address at The Lodge House, Killucan, Co Westmeath, was given €5,000 in fines.
Her car had a history of 165 trips on the motorway with three payments and she was issued close to 500 letters.
Marek Cornaga, of 75 Armagh Court, Waterville, Blanchardstown, Dublin, was also fined €5,000.
The court heard his car had done 177 trips on the M50 and there were six payments.
He would have received just under 500 letters about the tolls, the court heard.
Mark Kealy of 13 Drumcairn Drive, Fettercairn, Tallaght, Dublin was fined €14,000.
His car had a history of 198 journeys on the M50 and no payments.
Judge Halpin was told the defendant would have been sent approximately 600 letters.
James Gallagher, with an address at 145 Church Hill, Tullamore, Co Offaly, was the owner of a goods vehicle with a history of 447 trips on the M50 but no payments were received despite being sent 1,300 letters, the court heard.
Judge Halpin ordered him to pay €19,000 in fines.
Lynn McLoughlin with an address at 3564 Lakeside Park, Newbridge, Co Kildare, was fined €5,000 over five unpaid tolls in September and October.
The court heard since she became the owner, her car had a history of 170 passages with six payments.
Ted Purman, wIth an address at 31 Longdale Terrace, Ballymun, Dublin was fined €9,000.
Judge Halpin was told this man’s car had done 258 trips on the motorway but no tolls were paid even though he was sent 750 letters.
The court has heard it was TII’s policy to negotiate with defendants and some cases on the list were adjourned.
The registered owner of a vehicle is responsible even if they were not driving the vehicle.
The standard M50 toll for an unregistered private car is €3.10 must be paid before 8pm the following day or else there is a €3 penalty for having missed the deadline.
Motorists have 14 days from the date of issue to pay for the journey and the initial penalty; otherwise a further penalty of €41 is applied.
After a further 56 days there is an additional penalty charge of €103 and 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.