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Loophole makes mockery of €65m speeding initiative

Loophole making a mockery of speeding initiative

The state is spending €65 million over five years on its new speed-camera scheme, but cracks are  emerging

Trevor Quinn

A massive loophole in the issuing of speeding summonses could result in hundreds of speed offenders throughout the country escaping fines and penalty points.
Judge Mary Devins has been forced to dismiss numerous Co Mayo cases in recent weeks after defendants informed the court that they had not received fixed-penalty notices in the post.
The defendants had been allegedly detected breaking the speed limits by Ireland’s new speed-camera-van system operated by GoSafe.
At the September 7 sitting of Castlebar District Court, two defendants told Judge Devins that they did not pay the fine because they had never received a fixed penalty notice informing them that they had been detected.
In evidence, Mr Padraic Sammon, a van operator with GoSafe Ireland, had told Judge Devins that towards the end of his shift, he routinely submits all of the data he collects to the GoSafe headquarters in Listowel. Information on vehicles that were detected speeding is then forwarded on to the Garda department in Thurles, Co Tipperary, which then issues a Fixed Charge Penalty Notice to offenders.
After listening to the defendants’ explanations of why the fixed penalty notices were unpaid, Judge Devins said she had no option but to also dismiss the third case. “I have no evidence that these fixed charge notices are issued … This is a huge issue. I’m not in a position to just rubber stamp that they are.”

Scheme costs state 265m
Judge Paul Kelly also dismissed a number of cases at Buncrana District Court in Co Donegal last week. Judge Kelly asked the accused to swear on oath that they had not received the Fixed Charge Penalty Notices. After they did the cases were quickly dismissed.
The issue could ultimately undermine a scheme which is costing €65 million over five years.
The Garda Press Office has admitted that summonses issued by GoSafe were sent by ordinary post. A spokesperson said they would not comment on the operational performance of the GoSafe company. Garda representatives in Mayo were contacted about the cases but no response has been forthcoming.
One defendant stated after her case, “The first I knew of any speeding fine was when the gardaí called to my house. It was very embarrassing.”
She added, “These letters should be sent by registered post so they can make sure that people get them. I have had to take a day off work to be here and I don’t think that’s right. This kind of thing shouldn’t happen.”
Commenting, solicitor Evan O’Dwyer, who represented a client in a speeding case at Westport recently, told The Mayo News that he believes there will soon be challenges to speeding summonses “right across the country.”
In November 2010 more than 750 cameras were placed in 518 sites throughout Ireland.