I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 36, 58, 60 and 64 together.
These questions all relate to the issue we have previously discussed surrounding the allegations concerning the cancellation of fixed charge notices. Fixed charge notices are provided for under the Road Traffic Act 2002 and are an alternative to prosecution. They give a motorist the opportunity to acknowledge the offence, pay the fixed charge and, where the offence is a penalty point offence, incur the appropriate penalty points. While the issuing of a fixed charge notice does not constitute commencement of legal proceedings, it normally leads to a prosecution if the fixed charge is not paid.
There can be circumstances, however, where the fixed charge notice may be cancelled in accordance with Garda procedures drawn up in the light of legislative exemptions and prosecutorial guidelines. Cancellation occurs where it is believed the evidence would not sustain a prosecution or a prosecution would not be appropriate, fair or proportionate. The procedures provide authority to district officers, or inspectors acting as district officers, and an inspector in the fixed charge processing office to cancel fixed charge notices.
Cancellation can occur in circumstances where, for example, exemptions apply in relation to emergency vehicles or the wearing of seat belts, or where there are evidential difficulties, such as where the registration number registered by a speed camera does not correspond to the vehicle in question, or where there are emergency medical circumstances such as, for example, a sick child being driven to hospital, an imminent birth, or a medical professional rushing to a sick or elderly patient. Access to cancel a fixed charge notice through PULSE is restricted to users with the rank of inspector or higher.
Allegations concerning the cancellation of fixed charge notices are being examined by an assistant commissioner who is due to report his findings shortly. I have received an interim report from the commissioner but I will not be making any further comment on any of the allegations until the final report is available. It would be premature and wrong to assume that all of these cancellations of fixed charge notices were inappropriate, or that money has been lost to the Exchequer as a consequence. Equally, it is premature for calls to be made for a statutory inquiry into these matters.
As I said earlier, let us await the final report on this matter, which I expect shortly, and we will then be in a position to draw conclusions.