herald

Saturday 7 December 2019

A third of drivers caught drinking avoid conviction

A garda holds a breathalyser
A garda holds a breathalyser

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is calling on the Justice Department to investigate after new figures from the Courts Service showed a third of those charged with drink-driving avoid a conviction.

The figures were released to Independent TD Tommy Broughan on behalf of the Parc Road Safety Group.

Highest

Mr Broughan could not be reached for comment last night.

The figures covered 2017, 2018 and the first months of 2019.

They revealed that Co Kil- dare has the highest rate of convictions for drink-driving at 85pc.

Co Waterford has the lowest conviction rate, with fewer than half, or 44pc, of drivers charged with the offence ending up with a conviction.

The figures, published yesterday by RTE, revealed that 9,205 people have been convicted of drink-driving since 2017.

They also show that three- quarters of drivers charged with the offence failed to hand over their licences.

Brendan Ryan, chief executive of the Courts Service, told RTE the courts do not record the reasons why cases are dismissed or struck out.

However, he said there could be a number of reasons, including the fact that "the prosecuting garda did not attend court or the prosecuting garda applies to have the matter struck out for reasons such as he/she has evidence that another person was driving the vehicle".

There are also situations in which "the defendant provided evidence that proved to the court that he/she should not be convicted of the charge or the judge having heard the case wasn't satisfied that the case against the accused was proved beyond all reasonable doubt".

Inconsistencies

The RSA said it "cannot comment on possible reasons for inconsistencies in rates of drink-driving convictions".

However, it added: "If the numbers are correct and if there are such differences in numbers convicted, then the RSA would call on the Department of Justice, the Courts Service and An Garda Siochana to carry out the necessary research into the reasons for such diff- erences."

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