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Judge feels 'mentally sick' over 'rotten' Garda fixed charge penalties

People appearing before the judge have said they never received a Fixed Charge Penalty Notice, and so they never paid it.


A JUDGE SAID today that he has felt “mentally sick” over the “rotten” fixed charge penalty system gardaí have in place to prosecute speeding motorists.

At Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan made his comment after ordering that the top garda overseeing the force’s contentious Fixed Charge Penalty System for motoring offences come before him to answer for why the system is “rotten”.

At the traffic court today, Judge Durcan said:

Four months ago after a court here where there was a number of these cases, I was barely able to drive home, I was so mentally sick at the way the whole thing isn’t working.

Judge Durcan said: “There is something rotten in the whole system.”

The judge has been a vociferous critic of the system in response to motorists telling him that they haven’t received the fixed charge penalties from the garda unit based in Thurles, that issues the notices nationally, resulting in the case being struck out.

Judge Durcan said that if the fixed charge unit sent out the notices by registered post, it would get over the difficulty.

In a recent Dáil reply on the issue, Tánaiste and then Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald told Deputy Tommy Broughan that the cost of posting Fixed Charge Penalty Notices (FCPN) last year was €250,000 and if the notices were sent by registered post, it would have cost almost ten times that at €2.4 million.

A female motorist told Judge Durcan that she didn’t receive the Fixed Charge Penalty Notice from the Thurles unit that would have given her time to pay fines for two speeding offences.

However, as she didn’t receive the FCPNs, she received two court summons and is now liable to higher penalty points on conviction.

Judge Durcan said that the case should be adjourned to allow Superintendent James Keane come to court to answer questions on the FCPN system.

He said: “We have to get to the bottom of this because it diminishes everything that everyone does.”

The judge told Garda Dermot O’Rourke: “I want you to contact Superintendent Keane’s office to find out what court he can be here and I want an explanation because there is something rotten in the whole system.”

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Judge Durcan said: “I want to know why they are pursuing an appalling policy in relation to the serving of documents.”

After hearing details of a separate case where a motorist didn’t receive the FCPN from the Thurles unit, Judge Durcan said: “The sooner Superintendent Keane in Thurles wakes up the better and so that everything can be served by registered post and put the cost on the punter.”

He said: “I cannot understand why there isn’t some inquiry.

With all the talk about Templemore and all the various accounts for entertainment, I don’t know why there isn’t an inquiry in relation to Thurles and why they are not using the registered postal service.

Twenty minutes later, Garda O’Rourke returned to court to state that Superintendent Keane is no longer overseeing the fixed charge system and only in the last few days has assumed a new role in the force.

Garda O’Rourke said that Superintendent Keane’s successor will come to court on 6 October to speak to Judge Durcan on the issue.

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About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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