Grumpy judges have been accused by a leading road safety advocate of turning speeding cases into a lottery in which the judge’s mood decides the fate of the accused.
Conor Faughnan, director of consumer affairs at the AA, was speaking yesterday about the high number of speeding summonses being thrown out by the courts.
He said: “It does feel like a bit of a lottery when you get into court, spinning the lottery wheel: Will you be lucky or will you not? It can be very arbitrary, the mood of the judge on the day has a big effect.
“Is he grumpy this morning, is he handing out fines, left right and centre? Is he feeling benign and letting people off? Definitely, there is an element of the dog ate my homework.”
Mr Faughnan said part of him says “good luck” to motorists who get off.
“But this is not good enough from a road safety point of view. If you are guilty of a road traffic offence you should face the punishment,” he said.
Mr Faughnan, who was speaking on Live 95 FM, said the courts should”‘not feel like a roulette wheel”.
He said an impression that people who go to court to challenge road offences such as speeding get off, can be corrosive.
“It undermines general confidence in road safety and road safety law,” he said.
“It also encourages more people, egged on in turn by their solicitors, to give it a go in court.
“The effect of that is that it clogs up the courts and is wasteful of everybody’s time and energy.
“We want road safety convictions to stick. We don’t necessarily want to hand out penalty points willy-nilly, but we do want to believe that if you are guilty of a road traffic offence, you have to take the punishment on the chin.”
The road safety advocate said obviously it’s a miscarriage of justice if somebody should not be convicted and winds up being convicted.
“You don’t want to see that,” he said.
“But it is also a miscarriage of justice if somebody is absolutely, bang to rights, unambiguously guilty of an offence, but for one reason or other it just gets thrown out of court, or struck out, and every time that happens it’s a minor defeat for everything we want to achieve in road safety.”
Mr Faughnan said while people give out about speed cameras, they have, overall, been very effective in reducing road deaths.
“Good is being done and it’s a pity if it feels as if it’s being undermined by people taking a tip-toe through the legal system and coming out scot-free,” he said.
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