Failure to serve summons for offence is biggest impediment to securing a conviction
Only one in five speeding offences listed for court hearings conclude with a conviction, an analysis of court service data shows.
The biggest impediment to securing a conviction is a failure to serve a summons for the offence, according to the analysis conducted by road safety organisation, Parc.
The breakdown of speeding cases before the courts suggests that the whole process is malfunctioning, from the detection by the gardaí, through to serving summons to the follow-up after court cases which is supposed to include the recording of conviction on a motorist’s licence.
Publication of the figures comes as Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is under severe pressure over a series of revelations about the force’s work in road safety, including the wrongful conviction of motorists for fixed-charge notices and a gross inflation of the correct figures for roadside breath testing.
The figures in Parc’s analysis cover the period January 2015 to October 2016 in which there were 66,771 offences listed for speeding across the country.
Of these, just 14,572 convictions were secured.
Despite there being a statutory requirement for such convictions to be recorded on the motorist’s driving licence, only 42% had the offence recorded.
A total of 30,618 cases — nearly half of all speeding offences detected — were classified as “strike out not served” as a result of a failure of An Garda Síochána to serve the relevant summons.
The incidence of failing to serve a summons varies hugely across the State.
For instance, in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, no summonses were served in 63% of all speeding cases due before the court, while in Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim, 85% of summonses were not served.
The failure to serve summons is attributed in some instances to an inability to access the home of an offending motorist, particularly if the home in question is part of a multi-unit development. There is also an issue over false or misleading addresses given by motorists.
However, these discrepancies hardly account for the major volume of failures to serve a summons.
The figures, which were supplied to Independent TD Tommy Broughan, also show the low number of convictions in some areas, such as Ballina, Co Mayo, where there were only 11 convictions from 170 detections of speeding.
“We feel that this analysis shows up that road safety is not being taken seriously enough at any level within the criminal justice system,” says Susan Grey, chairwoman of Parc.
“We’ve sent this data to the Police Authority and to [Transport] Minister Ross and we look forward to it informing both the department’s policy and how the Police Authority holds the gardaí to account in relation to road safety.”
In its statement last Thursday in reaction to the figures over breath testing, the Police Authority did specify the non-issue of summons as an area it will explore with the Garda commissioner at the authority’s next public meeting on April 27.
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