If the flashing lights of oncoming cars do not alert you to the presence of a “camera van” around the corner you may find yourself with a fixed penalty notice which if you don’t pay will land you in the District Court the prospect of a hefty fine and penalty points.
In an article in the Irish Times on the 1st October 2015 Carl O’Brien shows that figures compiled by the Courts Services for the Department of Justice show that four out of five drivers summonsed to Court over penalty point offences are escaping conviction. The average portion of drivers not being convicted is over 75% in most Court areas, but the figures were as high as almost 90% in Kerry. Based on those figures on a statistical basis alone it is certainly worth contesting in Court any Summons received arising out of speed camera van detection.
These camera vans are run by a consortium known as Go Safe and according to the Irish Times the contract is worth approximately €17 million a year to the company. They appear to be the first instance where the State has depended on a private company to enforce the criminal law (relating to speeding) as opposed to the Gardai the Gardaí.
An interesting point has been raised by Daragh Hassett, Solicitor in Ennis, before the local District Court Judge Patrick Durkin. Mr. Hassett, in defence of his client, made the point that Go Safe employees, in the same way as, for example, dog wardens or traffic wardens, should have a specific power of appointment or a warrant or appointment giving them the specific powers to carry out their duties. He felt it was not sufficient for them to come to court to say that they are employed by the company Go Safe. I think Solicitor Hassett has a point. More so when you realise that traffic wardens and dog wardens are State employees and not people that are “contracted in”.
From my own legal practice I know that people like traffic wardens, dog wardens, veterinary officers, etc have to produce a warrant of appointment to a court to prove that they are so entitled to give this evidence and why should this not be the case with camera van operators?
As requested by solicitor Hassett, therefore, Judge Patrick Durkin has sent what is known as a Consultative Case Stated to the High Court to decide whether the points (excuse the pun) raised by Mr. Hassett are correct or not. It is unlikely that the High Court will make a final decision in this matter until close to the end of this year. In the meantime just like the English/Irish print out in the Intoxalyser case it would be interesting to see what each particular Judge will do if this point is raised with him in any prosecution.
It will also be interesting to see what the Go Safe company do in the meantime, ie as to whether they issue their employees with warrants of appointment.
One way or the other in any prosecution for speeding in a camera van scenario if I was employed to defend you I certainly would be raising the point of asking the operators of the camera van for their warrant of appointment and if they can’t produce it that the prosecution should be struck out for the reasons as set out above.
Article by Eamonn Fleming