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M50 motorway. Alamy Stock Photo

Fines totalling €262,000 handed to 17 motorists who dodged M50 tolls and failed to appear in court

Three commercial vehicle owners were each fined €25,000 today.

SEVENTEEN MOTORISTS HAVE been hit with fines totalling €262,000 after they failed to appear in court and ignored hundreds of warning letters about dodging M50 tolls.

Three commercial vehicle owners were each fined €25,000 today.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the State agency dealing with road and public transport infrastructure, prosecuted them at Dublin District Court.

However, despite getting reams of warning letters and being summonsed, they did not attend the hearings, which went ahead in their absence.

Judge Anthony Halpin handed down fines ranging from €8,000 to €25,000, to be paid within six months.

A thousand warning letters had been sent to one of them, while a couple of the motorists had been sent more than 500 or 600.

He also ordered them to pay €350 in prosecution costs.

Eleven were regular private car owners, with five sample counts for unpaid tolls from March to June. As a result, five of them were fined €15,000.

The other categories were van, small truck and lorry owners, who all received the highest fines.

Eight vehicle owners had their cases adjourned in their absence.

TII also revealed the motorists’ overall record of unpaid charges and hundreds of warning letters sent before court proceedings commenced.

The judge noted the types of vehicles and their records of outstanding charges.

In each case, he heard the number of unpaid tolls and details of the level of engagement with the motorway operators.

He also noted that they failed to turn up for the proceedings despite being sent summonses.

The TII could demonstrate which motorists made efforts to pay for journeys, and they received less severe fines.

For example, a driver who paid for 14 out of 231 trips was fined €8,000. But another private vehicle owner who did not pay for any of her 229 journeys was ordered to pay €15,000.

A small truck owner, who paid for 51 out of 310 journeys, was fined €15,000, while another motorist with the same type of commercial vehicle did not pay for any of his 196 M50 runs and got ordered to pay €25,000.

Two defendants turned up to be granted adjournments. One wished to address the court, but Judge Halpin told him, “you should pay your tolls like everyone else”.

Before bringing the court cases, TII corresponded hundreds of times with each defendant; nine of the 17 did not respond. The prosecutions can carry a potential custodial sentence.

The agency had certificates detailing the vehicles’ registered owners and pictures of them passing the toll gantry on specific dates.

Prosecuting counsel Edward Doocey (instructed by Pierse Fitzgibbon Solicitors) said the cases could proceed against the 17 in their absence.

Counsel called on a TII witness to confirm each vehicle’s ownership records, the number of passages, and payment history.

The judge heard that most did not engage with the transport agency, and some had recently ceased being owners of the cars subject to the prosecutions.

However, the TII could establish they were the owners at the time of the unpaid tolls.

The court can impose fines of up to €5,000 per charge and a six-month sentence.

However, it remains the practice of the motorway authority to select habitual non-payers to face criminal proceedings.

The standard M50 toll for a private car, €3.20, has to be paid before 8pm the following day, or there is a €3 penalty for missing the deadline.

Motorists get 14 days to pay for the journey and the initial penalty or face a more significant fee.

The charge ramps up after 56 days; warning letters and court proceedings follow if it remains unpaid.

Commercial and goods vehicle owners pay higher tolls. In all cases, the registered vehicle owner is liable even if they were not driving.