Limerick judges must be driven to distraction by speeding cases

 Kilmallock Court was the busiest it has ever been last week

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

Limerick judges must be driven to distraction by speeding cases

A record number of speeding cases heard in one day in Kilmallock Court

KILMALLOCK Court last week was the busiest this reporter can ever remember in more than five years covering.

There was standing room only as people awaited their cases to be called. The reason? One hundred and 18 motorists were up for speeding. It makes you wonder how many more did pay their fines in time.

Judging by the looks of wide-eyed innocence, many hadn’t set foot in a courtroom before. A farmer asked me what happens next. Perhaps he thought I was a career criminal.

“When your name is called stand up and say whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty,” I replied. He explained that the fixed charge penalty notice arrived shortly after his mother-in-law died and it was forgotten about until it was too late. It happens. 

When his name was called he jumped up like he had been shot but the case was withdrawn by the State. “I can go home now and feed the cattle,” he whispered to me.

Seventy-seven cases were from Go Safe operators, while Garda Philip Ellard prosecuted 41. All the old reliable locations were there - Banogue; R445 Newcastle, Annacotty; O’Rourke’s Cross, Bruree; Friarstown, Grange, Garranemore, Pallasgreen to name but five. Thirty-five were withdrawn by the State, 35 struck out, 30 fined and 18 adjourned. Like the current election polls there is a margin of error but it is a fair reflection.

The reason 21 were struck out was because the defendants said they didn’t receive the fixed charge penalty notice in the post, only the court summons from a garda.

A couple of months ago, a postman told a judge he hadn’t received his notice. The judge, with tongue firmly lodged in her cheek, asked: “Maybe you can help me – why are all these fines not being delivered?”

“I don’t know, to be honest,” the postman said. If it was registered post you would have a receipt with their signature but it would cost a fortune. We wouldn’t have the resources.”

An under-resourced gardai surely have better things to do than call to doors and hand out summonses. All 118 on that one day alone would have had to have been contacted by gardai. A stretched Courts Service could also do without this burden

If you are prepared to lie under oath and say you didn’t get the notice, even though it is on your kitchen table, you can drive like Lewis Hamilton without fear of any consequences. 

If you pay a speeding fine within 28 days it will cost you €80 and three penalty points. Within the next 28 days it is €120 and three points. If you forget to pay it and plead guilty in court the judge will give a fine and five penalty points are mandatory. But if you swear on the bible that you didn’t get it you can drive home scott free. Honesty doesn’t pay in this instance.

Now, there are a lot of genuine cases. One explained that he has had a continuing issue with the post office mixing up his address in Galbally with the Galbally in Tipperary. Others said they had moved home or it was a company car and was sent to the business address. The postal service can also make an innocent mistake but not even Mother Theresa would believe that some aren’t taking advantage of the system.

Of those who admitted it one man said he gets a lot of junk mail and didn’t open it because “there is nothing to signify it was official”. Fined.

One man thought his wife had paid it and she thought he had paid it.

“Are you blaming your wife? She won’t thank you for that,” smiled Judge Marian O’Leary. Fined.

Another man candidly admitted his “house keeping isn’t the best”.

“I stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it,” he said. Fined.

Some go to great lengths to prove their innocence. One said he had never got a speeding ticket in 40 years of driving.

So exercised by this he brought his car to a mechanic who found that the speedometer setting was incorrect. No fine.

Another unusual excuse was one man saying he wasn’t aware there was a speed limit.

“I didn’t see the signs. The signs weren’t visible,” he said. After he got the fine he went back, took photos of trees covering the signs and handed them into court. Case struck out.

The judge sped through the 118 cases in three hours and can expect more of the same next week and the week after – if she isn’t driven to distraction that is.