Summons Not Right

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[Robert Olson of the Garda Inspectorate and, above,  a screengrab from yesterday’s report]

When a motorist breaks the law and a Fixed Charge Notice (FCN) is issued, the offender has 28 days to pay the fine.

Failure to do so results in a 50% increase in the fine with another 28 days to pay it. If, after 56 days the offender still hasn’t paid, a summons to attend court is issued to the offender by a member of the Gardaí.

If the summons isn’t served, no fine is paid and no penalty points are incurred.

Yesterday’s Garda Inspectorate report looked at the issue of summonses not being served.

It found:

“In reviewing the level of non-payment of FCNs for 2011 and 2012, the C&AG found that approximately 238,000 fines were unpaid. Of these an estimated 56,000 FCNs were cancelled petition requests, company summonses and statute barred offences. Of the remaining unpaid FCNs, approximately 178,500 summonses were issued in 2011 and 2012. Of these summonses, 85,000 (48%) were served and 93,500 (52%) went unserved.

“As outlined in Table 2.2 [above], the Inspectorate, using C&AG figures, conservatively estimates the potential Exchequer revenue loss from the non-payment of the FCNs resulting in unserved summonses to be a minimum of €7.4 million.”

Following on from this, the Garda Inspectorate recommended:

“A review of the summons serving process be undertaken by the Garda Síochána to ascertain the reasons for the significant level of unserved summonses and to make recommendations to provide a more effective summons serving process.”

While the penalty point controversy has overshadowed the issue of summonses not being served, incidences in relation to this matter were investigated and highlighted by former Irish independent journalist Gemma O’Doherty, over the last year.

May 9, 2013: Ms O’Doherty, in the Irish Independent, reported that summonses for three different motoring offences were not served on Fianna Fáil’s Robert Tory, by gardaí. The three summonses related to alleged speeding in August 2011 and March 2012 and for parking on a footpath in June 2011.

May 10, 2013: Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy issued a statement in relation to the summonses that weren’t served, saying: “The Minister for Justice is currently awaiting a report from the Garda Commissioner into issues concerning the application of penalty points. I welcome this process and look forward to the publication of the report. I currently have six points on my licence and if the gardaí believe that there any further outstanding cases then I will of course co-operate fully in this regard.”

October 17, 2013: Phoenix magazine reported that the State Solicitor for Westmeath Peter Jones avoided incurring 8 penalty points to his driver’s licence because points were either terminated, court summonses were not served or, on one occasion, a case was struck out.
The points related to four separate times Mr Jones was allegedly caught speeding between 2011 and 2012. The magazine reported that Gemma O’Doherty was planning to write an article about Mr Jones and the non-serving of summonses and had put questions to Mr Jones in May 2013, at the time she was sacked.

January 23, 2014: At a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy asked Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan: “Has the Commissioner come across any evidence of deliberate non-serving of summonses by gardaí?” Mr Callinan replied: “No”.
Mr Deasy also asked Commissioner Callinan: “Has the Commissioner taken disciplinary action against any garda with regard to the non-serving of summonses? Again, Mr Callinan replied: “No.”
Mr Deasy then asked the Commissioner: “Has the Commissioner ever detected multiple non-serving of summonses by a particular garda?”. Mr Callinan replied: “To be fair, no. It is a volume issue. It is a difficult area for us and we accept it is a difficult area for us but we are working to try to reduce the level.”

Read the Garda Inspectorate report in full here.

(Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland)