Road Safety Authority questions huge variations in drink-driving convictions between counties

Kildare had the highest rate of conviction, where 85% of motorists before the courts were successfully prosecuted, compared to the lowest in Co Waterford (44%).

Road Safety Authority questions huge variations in drink-driving convictions between counties

The Road Safety Authority has called for research into why there are huge county-by-county variations in the rate of court convictions for drink driving.

A third of drivers prosecuted for drink driving avoid a conviction, figures released to independent TD Tommy Broughan reveal.

Kildare had the highest rate of conviction, where 85% of motorists before the courts were successfully prosecuted, compared to the lowest in Co Waterford (44%).

Other conviction rates include Cork (74%), Dublin (57%), County Louth (55%) and Kerry (61%).

The figures also revealed that while 9,205 people were convicted of drink-driving offences since the beginning of 2017, three-quarters of these did not produce their licenses in court and may not have received penalty points as a result.

Susan Gray, chair of the Promoting Awareness Responsibility and Care (FARC) road safety group said this was a cause for concern.

“By law, a person is summoned to court on penalty point offences and may be disqualified in court,” she told RTÉ Radio's This Week programme.

“It is crucial that they are instructed to hand up their license on conviction so that the courts can record the license number and send that to the Road Safety Authority and the Minister for Transport to input into the National Vehicle and Driver File database so that when the gardaí stop a driver at the side of the road, they will know by looking at the driver's license and scanning it, how many penalty points that driver has had, and if that driver has been disqualified in court, but if the license number is not recorded, then they will be unaware,” she said.

Speaking on the same programme, solicitor Evan O’Dwyer said the varying rate of drink driving convictions by county may be due to the fact that each case is different.

“I suppose there's no methodology really, that you can apply to this type of prosecution in the way that perhaps you might be able to apply for speed detection prosecutions,” he said.

Each drink driving charge, when it comes before the courts, is entirely based upon its own facts. And those vary, depending on the motorist, depending on the Garda, depending on the detection.

“So for instance, a motorist can be detected while driving with excess alcohol in their system, by reference to a garda checkpoint, by reference to a road traffic accident, by reference to a third party telephoning in about erratic driving, or by the gardaí's own detection.

“So in the normal course, when you're looking at statistics of road traffic convictions, such as you would have in speeding type offences, you have, in that situation. You have a standard template detection, prosecution, trial before a judge and an outcome. So the consistency or the veracity of the information is a lot more credible than perhaps it might be if you're looking for a common theme when it comes to likes to drink driving,” he said.

Courts Service chief executive Brendan Ryan told RTÉ that the courts do not record the reasons why cases are dismissed or struck out.

He said there may be a range of reasons, such as the prosecuting garda did not attend court, the prosecuting garda applied to have the matter struck out for reasons such as they had evidence that another motorist was driving the vehicle, the defendant provided evidence that proved to the court that he/she should not be convicted of the charge, or that the judge wasn't satisfied that the case against the accused was proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

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