Thursday, 3 October 2019

Ceisteanna (14)

Marc MacSharry


14. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has engaged with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport with regard to the considerable loopholes that exist within the penalty point system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40156/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I regularly meet my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, to discuss road safety matters, in particular at the Ministerial Committee on Road Safety which met most recently last month.

Minister Ross and I co-chair that Committee, which is made up of all the major stakeholders involved in road safety, including the Road Safety Authority, An Garda Síochána, the Health and Safety Authority, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, the Department of Health, the City and County Managers' Association and the Attorney General.  It provides an important forum to oversee the implementation of the Road Safety Strategy and facilitate high-level discussion of road safety issues.

In relation to the specific issue raised, I understand that the Deputy is referring to recent media reports indicating that almost half of motorists caught speeding did not receive a court summons; and that up to two-thirds of speeding motorists did not have the correct number of penalty points endorsed on their driving licence.

I am aware of these media reports and welcome this opportunity to clarify the position in relation to the figures reported.

In the first instance it should be noted 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 included in media reports and 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) 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.

It is important to acknowledge that last year witnessed the lowest number of fatalities ever on Irish roads. This year, Ireland received the European Transport Safety Council’s prestigious Road Safety Performance Index award in recognition of the considerable progress made in 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 ongoing attention and this Government is committed to this critical task.