Some 27 motorists were hit with fines totalling €229,000 on Monday after they failed to turn up to court accused of M50 toll dodging.
In total, 47 motorists had been summonsed to appear at Dublin District Court. They faced five sample counts of not paying tolls for trips from March to November 2019.
Prosecutions against 27 of them, who did not show up, went ahead in their absence resulting in fines ranging from €2,000 to €15,000 being imposed by Judge Anthony Halpin. He took into account the track record of unpaid charges in each case and the motorists’ efforts to pay.
A bench warrant was issued for the arrest of Des Long, of Rathsallagh Park, Shankill, Dublin, who allegedly had a record of 1,139 unpaid trips on the motorway over a 10-month period. At an earlier hearing, in 2019, he had told the court he intended to pay up and was granted adjournments to clear the amount owed.
Most of the cases involved standard private vehicles with records of between just over 100 and almost 400 unpaid trips. Thousands of warning letters were sent to the motorists, the court was told.
The highest number in the cases on Monday involved a private car owner with a history of 648 trips on the motorway. He had been sent nearly 2,000 warning letters, but failed to respond or come to court. He was fined €15,000.
A commercial vehicle owner, with a history of 326 unpaid tolls, was fined the same amount, as was seven other motorists.
Prosecuting counsel Thomas Rice BL (instructed by Pierse Fitzgibbon Solicitors) said the 16 of remaining cases could be adjourned while three were struck out and one bench warrant was issued.
Images from toll gantry
Certificates detailing the registered owners of the vehicles as well as the images of them passing the toll gantry on the M50 on specific dates were handed in to court. The details were confirmed during the hearing by a Transport Infrastructure Ireland witness.
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
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 must pay higher tolls.
The registered owner of a vehicle is responsible even if they were not driving the vehicle.