Gardaí spotted Philip O’Connell, aged 55, from Spout Lane, Castleisland, Co Kerry, holding a mobile phone while driving on April 7, 2014 at Currahaly, Farran, in Co Cork. He was issued a fixed-charge penalty notice, which he attempted to pay.
However, Mr O’Connell’s payment was rejected as he did not write his full name — including middle names, as it appears on his licence — on the form accompanying his payment. He was subsequently issued a summons to appear in Macroom District Court over the matter.
The case came before Judge James McNulty, where defence solicitor Sean Cahill argued that his client had made a genuine attempt to pay the fine and that the rejection of this attempt unreasonably exposed Mr O’Connell to prosecution.
Judge McNulty referred the matter to the High Court for its interpretation as a case stated under Section 52 of the Courts Act 1961.
The matter bears similarities to a previous case involving a retired teacher that Judge McNulty struck out last July.
Timothy Doherty, aged 63, of Enniskeane, Co Cork, told the court that his first attempt to pay the €80 fine he received for speeding on the N22 Cork-Killarney road on November 16, 2013, was rejected because he did not sign his middle name, as it appears on his driving licence, on the form accompanying his cheque.
His second attempt to pay the fine, which was increased to €120, also failed. Mr Doherty had sent the original cheque for €80, with a second cheque for €40, but was told he could not use two cheques to pay the fine.
Garda Insp John McDonald, head of the Garda’s fixed charge processing unit in Thurles, Co Tipperary, told the court at the time that upon receiving legal advice, An Garda Síochána had instructed BillPay, the company hired to handle the payment of speeding fines, to only accept payments with the full name as they appear on the license.
Last year, the High Court ruled that Section 55 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 specifically barred penalty point offences being dismissed under the Probation Act, meaning that judges cannot use the court poor box as an alternative to imposing convictions for traffic offences.