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Justice Minister adds to calls for 'imaginative' solution to court backlogs

Road tax penalties, debt collectors, tax credit cuts have all been floated to deal with traffic fines.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald (L) with Chief Justice Susan Denham at the presentation of the Courts Service Annual Report.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald (L) with Chief Justice Susan Denham at the presentation of the Courts Service Annual Report.

FRANCES FITZGERALD HAS expressed support for proposals to keep road traffic offences out of the courts, and reduce a backlog of cases.

Speaking at the launch of the Courts Service Annual Report yesterday, she was echoing the views of Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Denham, who had earlier called for “imaginative ways” to deal with road traffic matters.

In her speech, Justice Denham highlighted the Courts Service’s finding that 58% of all summary matters to go before the courts related to traffic offences, and that this was the biggest single category of offence before the District Court in 2013.

Unlike other jurisdictions, non payment of fines for traffic offences automatically results in a driver being summonsed to court…This puts a great strain on the courts system. Perhaps we should look at imaginative ways of avoiding this scenario?

Nobody benefits from Court hearings being packed with matters which might just as easily be dealt with via another route.

Proposals to prevent relatively minor traffic offences from clogging up the proceedings of the courts have included:

  • subtracting the value of unpaid fines from tax credits
  • adding the unpaid fine to road tax
  • contracting private debt collection agencies to ensure payment of fines

After her own remarks at the event, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald expressed support, in principle, for Denham’s proposals.

The Chief Justice made an interesting point about the number of cases relating to traffic offences, and we should consider alternatives to that.That is certainly something that should be examined.

Additional reporting by Christina Finn.

Read: Drivers, cyclists urged to brush up on road safety to curb bike accidents>

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