Drivers who claim not to have received fixed charge penalty notices in the post to try to get away without paying the fine or receiving penalty points will find the loophole cut off from June 1, writes Stephen Rogers.
At present, someone who fails to pay a fixed charge notice within the 56 days set down in law, is served with a summons. At that point, they have no other option to pay and must attend court.
However, according to the Department of Justice, people regularly appear in court and claim they did not receive the original fixed charge notice, and many such cases are dismissed.
“In these cases neither the fines nor the penalty points end up being applied,” the department has said. “The Courts Service tentatively estimates that in the region of 7,500 cases are dismissed on these grounds in the courts annually.”
However, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed that Section 38 of the 2010 Road Traffic Act, which comes into force on June 1, will mean that where the matter goes to court, evidence will be allowed from An Post or another post provider, to assist the judge to challenge oral evidence in which the accused claims not to have received the fixed charge notice in the post.
The department confirmed that evidence of postage — a certificate or receipt of postage/delivery — to be provided by An Garda Síochána, will be sufficient.
Also from June 1, members of the public who have received a fixed penalty notice will be given a “third payment” option.
At present there are only two options — a first period of 28 days during which the person may pay the fixed amount; and a second consecutive period of 28 days, during which a person can pay the fixed amount plus 50%. After that it goes to court.
Now, though, the person will be able to pay the fixed amount plus 100% while also receiving the penalty points without taking up further court or garda time.
“It is anticipated that the commencement of the third payment option will lead to a further increase in fixed charge amount payment rates, as a result of the provision of an additional/third opportunity to pay the fixed charge amount,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
In answer to a parliamentary question from Tommy Broughan, she also said work is underway in the Department of Transport to progress the Master Licence Record (MLR) project “linking the vehicle and driving licence database of the National Vehicle Driver file”: “The project will facilitate the application of penalty points to driving licences, thereby improving the effectiveness of road traffic enforcement measures.
“To enable the MLR, multiple system and process changes will need to be implemented across a number of organisations, including the Courts Service.”
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.