Gardaí contact 12k drivers for appeals

Gardaí have contacted almost 12,000 drivers wrongly prosecuted for road traffic offences over appealing their cases and returning fines paid.

Gardaí contact 12k drivers for appeals

Several thousand cases are scheduled for appeal in the courts this year alone over motorists incorrectly penalised.

Acting Garda commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin is expected to tell the Oireachtas justice committee today about the wrongful fixed charge penalty notices, dating back to 2006.

He will also insist that reform over recent scandals, including the wrongful convictions, can only be fixed “from the top down”.

The force is facing a backlash after a recent Garda report confirmed there were 14,700 wrongful convictions over the fixed charge notice system, penalty points, and court-imposed penalties.

Gardaí have begun a process of appealing cases so convictions can be quashed, penalty points removed, and fines returned. However, a number of motorists who lost their licence or lost out on work due to being convicted are now planning civil actions for damages.

Any driver who collects 12 penalty points altogether within a three-year period is automatically disqualified from driving for half a year. Some motorists claim the extra penalties put them off the road and resulted in them losing jobs.

Nonetheless, gardaí have written to motorists offering an appeal in their cases. It is understood some drivers are being advised to reject this offer if they intend to take cases against the force.

Mr Ó Cualáin will detail to TDs and senators in the committee today an update on the wrongful convictions after an internal Garda report on the penalty points scandal.

He will reiterate an apology made by his predecessor, Nóirín O’Sullivan, as well as acknowledge the damage done to the force over the wrongful convictions and the scandal over the estimated 1.5m bogus breath tests.

Mr Ó Cualáin will say: “We fully acknowledge the damage this has done to public confidence in An Garda Síochána. All of us in An Garda Síochána must now take responsibility to change our systems, practices, behaviours, and culture so these issues cannot happen again and confidence is re-built. This is a collective issue. This can only be fixed from the top down and the bottom up.”

Wrongful convictions and penalty points dating back to 2006 are being examined.

Mr Ó Cualáin will say that 99% of Garda work on these cases has been completed and that some 11,924 drivers have been contacted about appealing their cases.

In July, 67 test appeal cases went before the Dublin Circuit Court. All of these were successfully appealed and the Courts Service is in the process of updating the records concerned, as well as returning fines to those motorists.

Mr Ó Cualáin is also expected to say that a further 3,800 cases are scheduled for hearing in the circuit courts in December.

He will address questions over changes to the PULSE system and new testing devices for mandatory alcohol checkpoints. He will also speak on what he calls “implausable” breath tests which the gardaí are separately examining.

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