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More than 20 motorists hit with fines totalling €205,000 for unpaid M50 toll charges

One man faced allegations of 1,139 unpaid trips.

TWENTY-TWO MOTORISTS were hit with fines totalling €205,000 yesterday after they failed to turn up to court accused of M50 toll dodging.

Des Long, of Rathsallagh Park, Shankill, Dublin, came to his hearing and faced allegations of 1,139 unpaid trips on the motorway since he bought his new van last December.

He told Judge Anthony Halpin at Dublin District Court that he had already paid 7,500 to the sheriff over outstanding tolls, however, it emerged this amount related to another vehicle he had.

The court heard he had been sent 4,417 reminder letters over the motorway charges in his new van which incurred a toll of €5.30 each time he used the M50.

He is being prosecuted on five sample counts.

In court, Mr Long insisted he had been trying to deal with eFlow, which operates barrier free tolling on the M50 for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).

He claimed he reached an agreement over all his toll issues saying “I was clearing my name, not my vehicles”.

However, Judge Halpin noted from the prosecution’s evidence that the money he had paid so far related to a different van and not his new one, the subject of the proceedings in court today.

He told him he had delayed the matter and warned he now faced the possibility of receiving fines totalling €25,000. “You should not be using the toll if you are not going to pay, you continued to use it,” Judge Halpin added.

Mr Long’s case was adjourned until a date in January.

Some 42 motorists had been summonsed to appear in court today.

Prosecutions against 22 of them went ahead in their absence resulting in hefty fines, scaled by Judge Halpin to reflect the amount of unpaid tolls in each case.

Most had records of between 100 and 200 unpaid trips. Thousands of warning letters were sent to the motorists but the majority did not reply, the court was told.

One private car owner had a history of 373 trips without paying. He had been sent 1,119 letters, and was fined €15,000.

Among them were five commercial vehicle owners, three of them were fined €15,000 and two of them were ordered to pay €10,000.

Most cases involved five sample counts.

Prosecuting counsel Thomas Rice BL, instructed by Pierse Fitzgibbon Solicitors, said a TII official had certificates of ownership as well as the images of the vehicles passing the toll gantry on the M50, on dates from February until the end of April.

On top of the fines which have to be paid within six months, vehicle owners were ordered to pay up to €350 in prosecution costs.

Fines of up to €5,000 per charge as well as a sentence of up to six months can be imposed.

The court has heard the motorway authority only selected habitual non-payers to face criminal proceedings but no one has been jailed so far.

Fourteen motorists had cases adjourned today to allow TII to engage further with them. Five others got strike outs after resolving their debt with the motorway operator.

The standard M50 toll for an unregistered private car is €3.10 must be paid before 8pm the following day or else there is a €3.00 penalty for missing the deadline.

Motorists have 14 days from the date of issue to pay for the journey and the initial penalty; otherwise a further penalty of €41 is applied.

After a further 56 days there is an additional penalty charge of €103 and if it remains unpaid legal proceedings follow with the possibility of a court fine of up to €5,000 as well as a jail term of six-months, or both, per offence.

Commercial and goods vehicle owners have to pay higher tolls.

The registered owner of a vehicle is responsible even if they were not driving the vehicle.

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