A recent case that came before the High Court has concluded that a section of the Road Traffic Act is unconstitutional. The section relates to offences where a person is charged with holding a mobile phone while driving. Many people coming before the Courts had argued that they had not received a Fixed Charge Notice which would result in a lesser penalty being imposed on them. The section of the Act which was deemed unconstitutional stated that a person coming before the Courts cannot have a defence by demonstrating that the Fixed Charge Notice was not served on them.
The Judge dealing with the case stated that the law did not distinguish between those who chose not to pay a first Fixed Charge Notice and those who genuinely did not receive it. Accordingly defendants coming before the Courts may receive different penalties due to circumstances wholly outside their control. The Judge held that this was unconstitutional and quashed the conviction.
No final orders have been made as yet which will enable the Government to bring in emergency legislation to rectify the position. This matter could easily be resolved by ensuring that all Fixed Charge Penalty Notices are served by registered post . The Judge also suggested that if a District Court Judge had a discretion to impose a fine and penalty points at the level of the first Fixed Charge Notice that this may also be a further solution.
The Government’s response is awaited.
Donogh McGowan LLP
Gerrard L. McGowan LLP Solicitors