On Thursday 23 March 2017 An Garda Síochána conceded that as a result of Garda error 14,500 people were wrongly convicted of road traffic offences.
Certain types of road traffic offences such as speeding, driving with no seatbelt, dangerous parking and as many as thirty six other offences, fall within the fixed charge processing system. This means that if such an offence takes place, a person who is alleged to have committed such an offence is entitled to have a fixed charge notice issued to them, rather than having to proceed directly to court. Since 2002 such a notice must issue to a motorist to allow them the benefit of obtaining a fine and taking penalty points voluntarily. This frees up the court system but also means that any motorist in paying a fine and accepting penalty points through the fixed charge system, avoids a criminal conviction and therefore does not have a criminal record.
The effects of a criminal record are far reaching including that it must be disclosed to insurance companies, it may affect your insurance premium, it may affect your ability to travel outside of the country, it may affect you chances of obtaining employment and will also arise in the course of Garda vetting for particular positions of employment.
There are further repercussions in that when a motorist receives the benefit of a fixed charge notice, he or she accepts two or three associated penalty points depending on the nature of the offence. Should however the matter come before a court and a conviction is recorded, then the motorist potentially receives double the number of penalty points he or she would have received under a fixed charge notice. Where a motorist received the maximum number of twelve penalty points he or she risk the suspension of their licence which will have an enormous effect on the day to day life of that motorist and could potentially jeopardise their livelihood.
This issue has just arisen and it will take a number of days for some form of plan of action to be put in place by An Garda Síochána. It is clear that the Gardaí must appeal cases where wrongful convictions are recorded and remove the court-imposed penalty points.
The error is admitted as catastrophic across the country and will lead to numerous questions by motorists potentially affected. There is likely to be a deluge of enquiries and potential claims against the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána and the Minister for Justice and Equality in their representative capacities.
We, at O’Dwyer Solicitors, with extensive knowledge and experience in road traffic law, have already initiated the process of assisting motorists wrongfully convicted and advising them of their rights and entitlements in such circumstances
For further information contact