Judge Marian O’Leary
A JUDGE in Limerick was left shocked and practically speechless after a man accused of speeding simply pleaded guilty.
Judge Marian O’Leary had sat through numerous excuses and defendants saying in Kilmallock Court, “Guilty, but can I explain...”
What usually follows is: “I didn’t receive the fixed charge penalty notice in the post - I only got the summons.”
When the man said “guilty”, Judge O’Leary asked, “Do you want to say anything?”
“No,” said the welldressed young man in a suit and tie.
“You are the only one so far who has come to court who didn’t want to say anything. I don’t know what to do. Thank you very much,” said Judge O’Leary.
He was fined €120 and five penalty points are mandatory on conviction in a court.
Of the 40 up for speeding on the day, 25 were struck out, three adjourned and 12 fined. Ten of those financially penalised didn’t attend court.
The other lady who has to pay honestly said, “It did arrive in the post”.
“The letter didn’t stand out. When I opened it the deadline had passed. I rang Thurles and was told I had to come to court,” she said.
This is a common problem - just missing the 56 days of grace. Surely some way could be found for people to pay after the deadline. It would save the court’s time and save the person having to come to court. It is especially cumbersome if the offence occurs in another part of the country than where you live and you have to travel back to the local court.
The most heard phrase uttered in a court of law when the clerk calls a defendant’s case is, “I didn’t receive the fixed charge penalty notice in the post - I only got the summons.”
Sergeant Michelle Leahy then says, “The State has no evidence to differ” and Judge Marian O’Leary says, “On the basis of your sworn evidence, strike out.”
Now, of course, there are genuine cases - moved address, person with same name on same road, wasn’t the driver, sold the car etc - but can it be a coincidence that there are so many?
Maybe kind hearted post men and women recognise that they are speeding fines and throw them into a ditch.
In a similar story earlier this year, the Leader put a query into An Post who directed us to a ComReg report which states, “99% of single piece priority mail was delivered within three working days”.
An An Post spokesperson said: “Mail that is clearly marked with a return address that for whatever reason cannot be delivered is returned to sender. That’s standard practice.”
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 scot-free.
In theory, you could constantly drive around like Lewis Hamilton in his Formula 1 car, rack up as many speeding offences as you like, come to court, say you didn’t get the fine in the post and jump back behind the wheel without a care in the world.
While the man and woman in Kilmallock who admitted receiving the envelope in their letter box get a three figure fine and five penalty points.
It seems that honesty isn’t always the best policy.