At Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan dismissed 98 prosecutions against the motorists accused of speeding on two legal grounds.
Judge Durcan dismissed the cases over the failure of Go Safe personnel in court to provide evidence that they were authorised to give evidence on behalf of Insp John McDonald, who heads the Garda Fixed Charge Processing Unit.
Judge Durcan who has been a staunch critic of the way the Go Safe prosecutions are brought to court — adjourned months of prosecutions into yesterday’s date due to a High Court challenge.
He also dismissed the 98 cases after ruling that the Go Safe employees couldn’t give any evidence as to whether the fixed-charge notice was paid or not.
Surveying the packed courtroom that included around 12 Go Safe staff, Judge Durcan said that “Insp McDonald is out in force today with the artillery”.
The fleet of around 50 Go Safe vans is operated by an Isle of Man firm that last year put the profits it makes off limits by changing its status to that of an unlimited company.
The consortium secured the €80m Garda Síochána contract to operate the speed camera vans in 2009 and was recording operating profits of around €50,000 per week in 2012.
Earlier this year in court, Ivor Browne, the director of the firm that operates Go Safe — Road Safety Operations Ireland — told Judge Durcan: “The reason we introduced the Isle of Man structure was to just limit access to our accounts from a competitors’ point of view.”
Judge Durcan dismissed the cases yesterday following a test case brought by Ennis solicitor, Daragh Hassett, on behalf of one of his clients.
Mr Hassett said: “There is no argument that speeding on our roads is not welcome but our citizens are entitled to due process and fair procedures when they face a day in court. If the State in its wisdom is outsourcing important Garda duties to a private off-shore company then the same principles and duties that the gardaí are bound by must apply. To date that has not been my experience of this set up.”
Mr Hassett said the Road Traffic Act 2010 facilitated the outsourcing of detecting motorists speeding to the Isle of Man firm.
He said it “was unnecessary and ill thought out and for operational purposes it shows that members of the public, namely the employees of this private company Go Safe, are ill-equipped to properly prosecute a criminal matter”.
“They should not be asked to even attempt to replicate the expertise that experienced gardaí have brought to this role on a daily basis for many years. Its genesis may have been as a cost-cutting measure but as you can see as a consequence of these flaws — only some of which I needed to highlight today — the cheaper alternative doesn’t always replicate the original.”