The Irish Times

Dishonest motorists escaping justice, says judge

- CONOR LALLY Security and Crime Editor

A series of legal loopholes “crying out” to be closed had created a District Court system in which “honest people” were punished while those who acted dishonestl­y “usually escape”, one of Ireland’s longest-serving judges has said.

In strong remarks, Judge William Hamill of the District Court, added that if motorists deliberate­ly or carelessly supplied incorrect identifica­tion or contact details to the Vehicle Registrati­on Office (VRO) after buying a vehicle, it was impossible for the State to trace and prosecute them for subsequent road traffic offences.

Judge Hamill revealed there were 211,715 unexecuted warrants issued for non-payment of fines currently live on the Irish Courts Service computer system; 7,951 for drink- driving and 44,901 for other penalty point offences.

Of the 36,399 unexecuted bench warrants for failing to appear in court on a wide variety of offences, 3,049 were for drink-driving. In total, there were 142,521 motoring-related warrants unexecuted.

Proof of identity

“In all these matters the honest are dealt with and the dishonest, or at least the very careless, usually escape,” he said of those cases involving warrants, the vast majority of which are dealt with by the District Court.

“A person can register and retax a motor vehicle without proof of identity or any evidence of any connection with the address provided,” he said.

Judge Hamill was addressing the Law Reform Commission on Tuesday night and his remarks went unreported before now. He briefed the Working Group on Efficiency Measures in the Criminal Justice System on behalf of the judiciary three years ago and has presided over the Special Criminal Court.

He believed a legal requiremen­t to provide to the VRO a birth cert, PPS number or particular­s akin to those “needed to open a bank account even for a child” would “improve the situation beyond recognitio­n”.

“The current situation is a waste of time and money . . . involving the Garda, the Courts Service and the judiciary dealing with . . . prosecutio­ns, which on many occasions are predestine­d to fail.”

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