I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak briefly on this important Bill before us today, the Courts (No. 2) Bill 2016. It is sponsored by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, and I understand that it is a collaborative effort with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. It will allow for the commencement at long last of section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, the third payment option, which I have been calling for in this House for a long number of years. Indeed, I have replies to parliamentary questions on it dating back to 2012 from the previous Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr. Alan Shatter, and the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar.
Recently during Leaders’ Questions, Deputy Broughan urged the Taoiseach to intervene in the enforcement of Section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 2002. Section 22 classifies the non-production of driving licences in court as an offence. In June 2015, replies to Parliamentary Questions raised by Deputy Broughan on behalf of civil society group PARC (Promoting Awareness Responsibility and Care on our Roads) revealed that in a 15 month period (from January 2014 to March 2015), 72% of motorists were escaping the application of penalty points through non-production of their licences in court.
Deputy Broughan has today commended the voluntary organisation PARC Road Safety Group (Promoting Awareness Responsibility and Care on our Roads) on their election manifesto ‘Campaign Priorities for Road Safety’. Ms Susan Gray, Chairperson of PARC, and her colleagues are calling upon candidates for the 32nd Dáil to commit to reducing road deaths and injuries by implementing the necessary legislation and system improvements which would make this a reality.
I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to take this debate. I understand the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Donohoe, is in Brussels. The Minister of State last took a similar debate on 22 October. He told me in respect of questions I put to the Minister that he had no doubt the Minister would address the issues I raised, because it was not in his nature not to do so. Unfortunately, the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, has not given me any replies to the key questions I put to the Minister of State that day. For example, I requested that the Minister would clarify whether it was the case that there is no requirement in legislation for the Courts Service to record the licence of a disqualified driver. I also asked for clarification regarding the breathalyser printouts and whether they had to be in English and Irish.
At the end of August of this year, working in collaboration with Ms Susan Gray and the PARC road safety group, I received a reply from the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, to my Parliamentary Question No. 511 of 14 July. The reply detailed by district court the number of persons listed and convicted and licence numbers recorded for drink driving offences between January 2013 and May 2015. Ms Susan Gray and PARC have done and, indeed, continue to do Trojan work in the area of road safety, highlighting loopholes in our legislation and the failure to implement our traffic laws.
Deputy Tommy Broughan has welcomed news received this week that Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe, will soon be commencing Section 6 (c) of the Road Traffic Act 2014 which will “create a Garda power of arrest in cases of people driving while disqualified.”
Deputy Tommy Broughan has this week received information from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) that the average amount of time a person is waiting to access their full National Car Test (NCT) is one month nationally. At 11 of the centres you will be waiting for a month or more with Kells topping the list at 47.06 days waiting and the Northpoint Dublin centres off the M50 next with the longest waits of 44.69 and 42.88 days each.
Deputy Tommy Broughan this week called for a Topical Issues debate on the urgent need for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and Minister for Justice and Equality to work together to prioritise the improvement of communications and collaboration between the Road Safety Authority, the Gardaí and the Courts Service to ensure the prosecution and application of penalty points on those convicted of traffic offences and in particular those charged with dangerous driving offences.
Earlier this month I asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to provide, in tabular form, the number of drivers who surrendered their licences to the Road Safety Authority, after being disqualified by the Courts from driving for a long period, after being found guilty of dangerous driving, causing death, in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, to date
Deputy Tommy Broughan cautiously welcomes news that section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 should finally be commenced in 2016. Section 44 of the Act allows for a third payment option for drivers who have not paid fines under fixed charge notices for offences relating to penalty points.