No interruption to the enforcement of road traffic offences under the penalty points system
Statement by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD:
“There has been some speculation in the media in recent days on a potential difficulty with penalty points issued for motoring offences. My Department had concerns in relation to two issues that they discovered in current legislation involving fixed charge notices/penalty points system and sought advice from the Office of the Attorney General to clarify the position and provide a legal approach to addressing the matters arising. That advice has now been received and I am this morning publishing a short piece of amending legislation to go through the Oireachtas next week. There will be no interruption to the enforcement of road traffic offences under the penalty points system.
Penalty points are an important deterrent to behaviours that increase risks to safety on our roads. Road traffic legislation is developed and regularly updated with people working with very best intentions to bring about safer road travel. It is commenced in parts on various dates to allow for certain prerequisites, such as IT systems, like the Garda PULSE system, being updated.
On this occasion, two technical errors got through the various legislative checks. Once my Department discovered the errors, every effort was made to quickly clarify the situation and to take corrective action.
Road Safety is a priority for me and work will continue with colleagues across Government to implement the Road Safety Strategy to reduce deaths and serious injuries of people on our roads. It is important that I act quickly in order that public acceptance of and faith in the fixed charge notice and penalty points system is maintained.”
Details in relation to the two issues are set out below.
Firstly, the 2014 Road Traffic Act omitted to amend a provision in the 2002 Act which excludes certain offences from the fixed charge system. With the bringing of the offences of using a vehicle without a valid NCT certificate and parking in a dangerous position within the fixed charge system as announced on Monday of this week, the 2002 Act should have been amended to remove these offences from the listed exclusions. Amending legislation to resolve this matter was prepared and I brought it to Cabinet last Tuesday week (2nd December). There are no implications from this oversight, so long as the amending legislation is enacted next week.
In preparing to bring this Bill to the Oireachtas, a further concern arose with the 2014 Act. Section 8 of the Act contains a number of provisions relating to the endorsement of penalty points. The main provisions of this section are important and their standing is not at issue. Section 8 also makes reference to sections 37 and 44 of the 2010 Act as the means of endorsing penalty points following the payment of a fixed charge notice. These particular sections of the 2010 Act are not yet ready to be commenced and, accordingly, that part of Section 8 (2014) should technically have also made reference to the 2002 Act, which was previously the means of endorsing penalty points. Section 8 (2014) was commenced on 1 August in order to bring about certain improvements in the penalty points system, but regrettably this also brought into effect what was simply a legislative error.
The issue has no bearing on penalty points applied on foot of a court decision, nor to fines that individuals have paid on foot of fixed charge notices for motoring offences. Penalty points were endorsed since August in full accordance with the intent and spirit of the law and in good faith following receipt of acknowledgements of the offences from individuals paying the relevant fines and accepting the penalty points.
The Attorney General has advised me to add a provision to the Bill to address the error and to provide that penalty points endorsed to licences since August can stand as intended. When I became aware of the error last Wednesday week, I instructed that no further points should be endorsed on licences pending the resolution of the difficulties. The Bill will provide that these points can now be endorsed on the relevant licences.
The Bill addressing both matters discussed above is being published today and will be introduced in the Dáil on Tuesday.
Road traffic legislation is complex and has been amended on several occasions over the years. In an effort to avoid a recurrence of the problems that arose last week, my Department will now begin the process of consolidating all road traffic legislation.
Minister Donohoe will be available for comment at 10.45am at the plinth at Leinster House