‘It is essentially a question of reasonableness and balance’

The Fixed Charge Processing System which replaced the old ‘fine-on-the-spot’ system, was introduced by Section 11 of the 2002 Road Traffic Act, which substituted Section 103 of the 1961 Road Traffic Act.

It is a computerised, networked system which manages all data relating to the issue and processing of fixed charge notices and is accessible to authorised personnel through the Garda Pulse system.

Where a motorist is reasonably believed to have committed a fixed charge offence, he or she may be served with a fixed charge notice and, if it is paid, proceedings will not be instituted.

Anybody may call in person or telephone a Garda station to apply to have a notice cancelled. If it has proceeded to the summons stage, the applicant is advised to pursue the matter in court. If not, the garda member who receives the petition informs the applicant that they must submit their cancellation request in writing to the district officer in whose district the offence occurred.

The district officer examines each case to see if the offence warrants a termination. If not, a rejection letter is sent to the applicant.

If the cancellation is warranted, the district officer logs on to the Pulse system and selects the offence to be terminated via the Fixed Charge Processing System search screen.

There are a number of circumstances in which an offender might avoid the imposition of a fixed charge notice in the first place, as well as occasions in which fines can be cancelled.

Any garda can exercise his or her discretion to apply the law to its fullest extent or to be merciful. Garda policy suggests that there are times when warnings, cautions, or other forms of policing are preferable to imposing fines or prosecutions.

In this regard, the report points to the wisdom of saving court time, lawyer’s fees, and Garda resources, and argues that the positives associated with the application of discretion outweigh the negatives.

“It is essentially a question of reasonableness, balance and proportionality,” the report states.

“In human terms, discretion has proved to be hugely beneficial where offending motorists have submitted genuine reasons for their transgressions.”

Termination of a fixed charge notice on discretionary grounds is deemed appropriate in circumstances that include family bereavement and medical emergency.

There is also a schedule of circumstances where a notice must be terminated when, for instance, a car has been stolen and the offender is the thief and not the car owner.

The cancellation policy also reflects the DPP guidelines for prosecutors, which state that a prosecution should not be brought “where the likelihood of a conviction is effectively non-existent”.

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