Penalty points system faces constitutional court challenge

Woman wants a fixed penalty notice for alleged speeding quashed because she says the only way to contest it is by having to go to court
Penalty points system faces constitutional court challenge

A woman wants a fixed penalty notice for alleged speeding quashed because she says the only way to contest it is by having to go to court, a judge was told.

Medical sales representative, Anne Austin, Kerdiff Closed, Naas, Co Kildare was granted permission by the High Court on Monday to challenge the law governing the penalty notice she received after being stopped on the M8 motorway in Laois on February 21st last.

It is claimed a vehicle she was travelling behind was pulled in by a garda and she was pulled in as well. The garda told her she was travelling at 149km/h, but she says the officer did not show her a speed gun.

Unconstitutional

She was issued with the fixed penalty notice, but she says because the only way she can contest it is by refusing to pay and then going before the District Court that this is unconstitutional.

It is claimed that if she is unsuccessful in the District Court prosecution, the imposition of three or five more points on his licence would result in automatic disqualification and interfere with her ability to earn a living.

Her counsel, Desmond Hayes, said his client disputes that she was travelling in excess of 129 km/h where the speed limit was 120km/h.

Fines

The scheme allows for the payment of an €80 fine within 28 days with three automatic penalty points on the driving licence. The fine increases to €120 up to 56 days and if you decide to pay seven days before you have to appear in court it climbs to €160.

If you are convicted in court, you can be subject to a higher fine and five penalty points is added instead of three.

It was their case that there are no circumstances in which the penalty notice can be challenged before having to appear in court and this was repugnant to the constitutional guarantee to a trial and a breach of fair procedures, counsel said.

Lack of opportunity

The lack of opportunity to challenge the evidence of a garda, other than in court, was unconstitutional, he said.

While there are provisions under a non-statutory scheme to apply for cancellation, including where one says they were speeding in order to get someone ill to hospital, those did not apply to Ms Austin, he said.

The judge, who noted there were two similar pending challenges, was satisfied an arguable case had been made, and he granted leave to challenge the penalty points law (Section 37 of the Road Traffic Act 2010) against the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the State.

The application was on a one-side only represented basis.

The judge also granted a stay on having to pay the fine within 56 days pending the outcome of the proceedings but said the Minister could apply on notice to vary or lift the stay.

The case comes back in June.

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