The Irish Times

Judge highlights serious flaws in Irish justice system:

Giving incorrect informatio­n means people can often be beyond the law

- Conor Lally

The facts laid out by District Court Judge William Hamill to a Law Reform Commission meeting this week suggest a bungling State apparently incapable of getting the justice system right, rather than being too broke to do so.

It is more difficult to open a bank or post office account in the Republic than to register yourself as the owner of vehicle that can travel at speeds of up to 200km/h and take the lives of innocent people when things go wrong, as they often do.

The contact address motorists supply to the vehicle registrati­on office is not checked and does not need to be supported by documentat­ion such as utility bills. Similarly, one’s name, date of birth and even gender require no real level of proof.

‘Unexecutab­le’

If you commit a road traffic offence in a vehicle after deliberate­ly or carelessly submitting the wrong contact details, the State will not be able to find you to prosecute you.

Summonses to appear in court and the warrants for your arrest when you fail to appear or for the non-payment of fines generated by your law-breaking will rattle around the Garda and Irish Courts Service computer system.

They will be “unexecuted and unexecutab­le” in cyberspace while you continue on the roads out of reach of the law.

In total, Judge Hamill revealed, there were 142,521 motoring related warrants unexecuted across all parts of the justice system at present.

Apart from guilty parties escaping justice, the inability of the system to find most of the people at the centre of the cases was costing the State millions in fines revenue lost each year, a total of ¤7.4 million for 2011 and 2012.

Judge Hamill suggested both the Road Safety Authority and Department of Transport were failing to ventilate all of these serious problems.

Apart from false registrati­ons, people changing address did not have to amend their details with the vehicle registrati­on office. And some vehicles were still registered to companies that had long since ceased to exist.

Fundamenta­ls

Judge Hamill had recently cancelled more than 20 warrants in the name of a company struck off since 2006 that had accrued “unexecuted and executable” warrants between then and 2014.

In another case he had cancelled 20 warrants in the name of a person who could not be traced, meaning the warrants could not be executed. About half of the warrants provided for imprisonme­nt of the person to a male prison and the other half to a female prison.

“Such fundamenta­ls as a date of birth and the gender of the person weren’t known,” he said.

And even if the people at the centre of cases were found, there was “a certain category of defendant” that simply refused to pay.

They did so knowing the prison term they would have to serve in default would involve being brought to a jail and released “quicker than the time it takes to complete the formalitie­s by the gardaí lodging them there”.

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