Double fine for drivers to avoid penalty point court appearances

Drivers are set to be given the option of paying a double fine to avoid a court appearance in penalty point cases under government plans.

A memo is due to be brought to Cabinet tomorrow which would allow drivers summonsed for not paying a fine to avoid court.

It is understood that Justice Minster Frances Fitzgerald, Transport Minister Shane Ross, and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Pashcal Donohoe have been working on the measures in a bid to combat the thousands of drivers who avoid penalty points each year.

Currently, those who do not pay the fixed-charge fines within 56 days receive a court summons.

However, less than one in four of those brought to court receive a conviction and the Government is now hoping to activate this “third option” to tackle the issue.

Between January 2013 and March 2015, more than 147,000 drivers received summonses, but were not convicted, according to Court Service figures.

On average, 77% of drivers who appeared in court did not receive convictions, however, in Kerry the number of people who were not convicted was as high as 89%.

Many drivers have been able to avoid prosecution by claiming in court that they never received the penalty points notice.

As fixed-term notices are sent by regular post and are not registered, it can be difficult to prove whether the driver has received their penalty points or not.

This third payment option would aim to rectify this by, it is believed, arriving along with the summons. Motorists will have the option of paying the increased fine or going to court where they cannot use the excuse that they had not received the fine. It is already provided for under section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, but has yet to be commenced.

The memo is among a number due to come before Cabinet tomorrow.

Environment Minister Simon Coveney will brief ministers on the pay-by-weight system after meeting with waste companies on Friday.

Although a consensus appeared to be reached after Mr Coveney met with the major bin collectors, yesterday concern was raised by some major operators.

The minister had proposed that a 12-month price freeze be introduced ahead of the new pay-by-weight system which is due to come into force on July 1.

However, some providers who are currently operating at below-cost, especially in the larger urban areas, could not sustain their rates for another year.

Speaking on the issue yesterday, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said: “We all agree that pay by weight makes sense. It encourages people to produce less waste and to recycle and compost more.

“What none of us want to see is waste companies taking advantage of the new regime to hike charges.”

The Taoiseach is also due to bring a memo to Cabinet on the citizens’ convention to look into the Eighth Amendment.

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

It is expected that Finance Minister Michael Noonan will also provide details on the summer economic statement which is also due to be released tomorrow.

Revised forecasts are expected to show that the Government will have more than the €900m to use on tax cuts and additional spending on budget day, it is understood that the figure will still be less than €1bn.

Separately, the Paternity Leave Bill is due to be published today ahead of Dáil discussion on Friday.

Mr Varadkar said the new measures will give every father the right to take two weeks leave in the first six months of their child’s life and during that time, the Department of Social Protection will pay €230 a week to the father: “Some employers will top that up to the full salary, others won’t but everyone including self-employed people will get a minimum of €230 for those two weeks. It’s good news for fathers, it’s good news for families and for wider society as well.”


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