Judge hits out at speed camera operator’s "complete waste of public money"

A situation whereby speed-camera operators who come to court but fail to prosecute alleged speeding motorists for “one bad reason after another” has been described as “a complete waste of public money” by one judge.

The GoSafe consortium secured the €80m Garda contract to operate the network of speed camera vans in 2009.

At Kilrush District Court yesterday, Judge Patrick Durcan lambasted the private firm. “I am reaching the point where I believe I should refuse to entertain these matters because of the time wasted in court,” he said. “This country can’t afford it.”

Judge Durcan made his comments after four GoSafe-related prosecutions failed, with the judge dismissing two and striking out the other two.

The judge also expressed concern over recent remarks made by Gay Byrne, head of the Road Safety Authority, on how the courts are dealing with speeding motorists.

Judge Durcan said GoSafe “seem to be going from one disaster to another”.

The group’s most recent accounts show it was recording operating profits of almost €50,000 per week in 2012.

The consortium recently put the scale of its profits beyond public scrutiny by going unlimited, removing the requirement to file annual accounts.

On average, the GoSafe vans detect one speeding motorist per hour, which works out at 72,000 detections per annum, as the consortium is contracted to provide 6,000 hours per month.

The GoSafe cameras operate on sections of road which have a history of collisions occurring where speed was a contributory factor. The areas where they are operating are available on the Garda website.

The GoSafe-connected prosecutions in court appear on the court list under Inspector John McDonald, who is responsible for the fixed-charge processing unit based in Thurles, Co Tipperary.

Addressing the two GoSafe officials who appeared in court yesterday, Judge Durcan said he had made comments relating to the fixed-charge penalty system in Ennis last month and noted that a third official was in court yesterday taking down everything that he said.

Judge Durcan told Superintendent Seamus Nolan of Kilrush Garda Station: “We have had four prosecutions. You have been put into an unenviable position of trying to prosecute cases where matters have been so badly and so appallingly put together by Insp McDonald and his team.

“The sooner this is highlighted the better — the complete waste of public money by these people who come into court who don’t know or don’t happen to be told how to prosecute simple road traffic matters.”

While he did not name Mr Byrne, Judge Durcan said the head of the RSA has been “making comments about the courts and the way these matters are dealt with and about the inadequacies about fines and penalties.

“It puts the courts and the judiciary in a most difficult situation when matters, as I say, are so appallingly presented in court...

“The gardaí come in and do their job perfectly in relation to those matters and you have this quango, this private company, retained to prosecute these matters and one after one after one, their prosecutions seem to fall for one bad reason after another. It is most disappointing.”

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