I propose to take Questions Nos. 775 to 778, inclusive, together.
To clarify the disparity noted by the Deputy, a number of enforcement factors must be taken into account. Firstly, in relation to roadside intercept detections, members of An Garda Síochána can record the driving licence details obtained at the point of interception. This can ultimately be used to apply penalty points, should there be a conviction. Therefore, in such instances, the recording of a licence in court may not be necessary. However, an issue may still arise where the licence details are not obtained at the point of interception.
In the case of non-intercept speed camera detections, the registration of the vehicle is captured on detection. In the event that a driver does not pay his/her Fixed Charge Notice, and is subsequently convicted, his/her licence details should be recorded in court in accordance with section 33 of the Road Traffic Act 2016. Unfortunately, there are instances when the court is unable to record licence details, such as when licences are reported to the court as lost or forgotten, or, in more serious cases, persons are convicted of speeding while also driving without a licence. There is also a cohort of drivers, who wilfully choose not to attend court and are convicted in absentia. Again, there is no licence to record in these cases.
In cases where a licence is not provided, I understand that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) has the facility, in certain instances, to look up the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) and successfully apply penalty points, based on exact matching against the offence's vehicle registration details.
We should, of course, keep in mind that approximately 95% of all penalty point offences are endorsed by the NVDF on driver licences every year and this is an exceptional rate of endorsement. Over 85% of penalty point offence records are received directly from An Garda Síochána when the offender opts to pay the fixed charge amount and accept the penalty points. The remainder are received from the Courts Service, following convictions.
The Criminal Justice (Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS)) Working Group (chaired by officials from both my Department and DTTAS, and attended by the Courts Service) continues to monitor progress and relevant developments in the area of road traffic enforcement. In addition, I have asked my officials to meet with DTTAS and the Courts Service to discuss how the process of obtaining driver information upon conviction is currently operating under section 33 of the Road Traffic Act 2016.
The Master Licence Record (MLR) programme, established by DTTAS, is implementing further measures to assist in endorsement of penalty points by matching vehicle and driver records on the NVDF. This project will go some way to addressing the issue of 'unmatched offences' by matching vehicle and driver records on the NVDF, and, over time, by establishing owner identity for all vehicle records.
However, it is important to acknowledge that there will be always be complex scenarios when attempting to endorse driving licences in respect of road traffic offences; for example, instances where the vehicle owner is not driving at the time of an offence, or when an offending vehicle is owned by a company. I am informed by my colleague, Minister Ross, who has responsibility for road traffic legislation that, due to legislative and operational issues, full population of the MLR is likely to take several years.
A Criminal Justice (FCPS) Working Group progress report, highlighting the current status of ongoing recommendations (including the MLR programme), will be published by Minister Ross and I shortly.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to commend members of An Garda Síochána, especially those in the Roads Policing Units, for their continued dedication and commitment to road traffic enforcement. Over the last 12 months, there has been a concerted effort to detect offenders on our roads. Enforcement figures, discussed at the June Ministerial Committee on Road Safety chaired by Minister Ross and I, show that, in the 12 months from April 2018 to April 2019, there was a 12% increase in detections compared with the previous 12-month period. I believe this increase underscores the commitment of An Garda Síochána to make our roads a safer place for all road users.