Thursday, 3 October 2019

Questions (22)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

22. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which he plans to respond to recently published figures from the Courts Service which revealed the large proportion of summonses that are not served; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39989/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am aware of the recent statistics published by the Courts Service and welcome the opportunity to clarify the position as it stands to the Deputy. 

Last year saw the lowest number of fatalities ever recorded on Irish roads and this year Ireland received the European Transport Safety Council’s prestigious Road Safety Performance Index award, in recognition of the considerable progress made in terms of road safety. Ireland was the second safest EU member state in terms of road deaths per million inhabitants in 2018.

However maintaining progress in road safety requires consistent ongoing attention and in the first instance it should be noted that Gardaí indicate that up to 85% of all road traffic fines are paid by motorists on receipt of the relevant Fixed Charge Notice issued by An Garda Síochána.  It is important to understand that the figure referred to by the Deputy relates solely to a proportion of the remaining cases where Fixed Charge Notices had not been paid and the matter proceeds to summons.

I am informed that approximately 95% of all penalty point offences are endorsed by the National Vehicle and Driver File on driver licences every year with over 85% of penalty point offence records received directly from An Garda Síochána when the offender opts to pay the fixed charge amount and accept the penalty points. The remainder of relevant records are received from the Courts Service, following convictions in court.

Insofar as non-service of summons is concerned this rate is higher than I as Minister or any agency engaged in road traffic enforcement would wish.  However, I am assured that work is ongoing by An Garda Síochána to further improve the rate of summons service.

I am informed that a Garda Summons Service Working Group has undertaken a review of the entire summons service process and has identified actions to improve the rate of service and a marked improvement in the rate of summons served has been noted since the commencement of its review.  Indeed I understand from Garda management that summons service rates are now at their highest in a decade.

Further, the Criminal Justice (Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS)) Working Group, jointly chaired by officials from my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, continues to monitor progress in implementing the recommendations of the comprehensive 2014 Garda Síochána Inspectorate report, including the summons service process.  The Working Group's most recent progress report in respect of 2018 was published on my Department's website in July last.

The Deputy will also be aware that the third payment option, introduced in June 2017 encourages recipients of Fixed Charge Notices for road traffic offences to avail of a third and final opportunity to pay their Fixed Charge Notice amount, thereby eliminating the requirement to attend court.  In the period 25 October 2017 to 5 April 2019, take-up of the third payment option was at 31.37%, which represents a solid return in road traffic enforcement terms. 

In addition, the restructuring currently underway in An Garda Síochána will have a positive impact on road traffic enforcement capacity over time.  For example, the mobility project currently being developed includes a particular focus on roads policing.   I am confident that the use of Garda mobile devices at the roadside will provide for a timelier, consistent and targeted approach to road traffic enforcement.