Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Questions (282)

Thomas P. Broughan


282. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the non-surrender of driver licences and the lack of prosecutions of those taken to court for this offence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39759/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Approximately 95% of all penalty point offences are endorsed by the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) on driver licences every year. 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 - the minority - are received from the Courts Service, following convictions.

Nonetheless, I am acutely aware of the road traffic enforcement challenges that result from the non-surrender of driving licences.

In the case of 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. 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. For example, in the case of non-intercept speed camera detections, the registration of the vehicle is captured on detection. If 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, for example when licences are reported to the Court as lost or forgotten, or where persons are convicted of speeding while also driving without a licence. There are also some 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 has the facility, in certain instances, to look up the National Vehicle and Driver File and successfully apply penalty points, based on exact matching against the offence's vehicle registration details.

I can also confirm to the Deputy that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Road Safety Authority, the Courts Service and An Garda Síochána met in August to discuss road traffic enforcement and that the non-production of driving licences was one of the matters discussed at this meeting.

The Criminal Justice (Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS)) Working Group, chaired by officials from both my Department and Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and attended by the Courts Service among other agencies, actively monitors progress and relevant developments in the area of road traffic enforcement. I have asked my officials to meet with Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Courts Service via this forum to discuss how the process of obtaining driver information upon conviction is currently operating under section 33 of the Road Traffic Act 2016. The Working Group will meet during October and I can confirm to the Deputy that this important enforcement issue will be discussed. I am happy to update the Deputy further after the appropriate meeting has taken place.

The Deputy may also be aware that the Master Licence Record programme, established by Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, 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. I am informed by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr. Shane Ross, T.D., who has responsibility for road traffic legislation that, due to legislative and operational issues, full population of the Master Licence Record Programme is likely to take several years.

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. It is equally important to note that disqualified drivers constitute a major component of those who do not surrender driving licences.

Finally, the Deputy may be aware that Minister Ross has proposed the amendment of section 40 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 to remove the existing Garda discretion to allow a driver 10 days in which to produce his/her licence/learner permit at a Garda station and, as a result, to provide for the mandatory carry of licence/permit. This proposal will be discussed further over the coming period.