Fewer than one in five people prosecuted in court for speeding offences are being convicted, new data shows.
With a national average of just over 16 per cent, data covering a three year period between 2018 and 2020 shows conviction rates ranging from 7 per cent recorded in Co Mayo to 24 per cent in Co Wexford.
In total, of almost 60,000 court prosecutions, fewer than 10,000 concluded with a ruling against the driver.
While separate statistics show that 8,325 cases (14 per cent of total prosecutions) were either dismissed or struck out by judges, no information is available as to why.
“The Courts Service system does not record the reason a case was struck out unless the Judge includes the reason in their order,” Minister for Justice Helen McEntee told Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy who had sought recent information around mobile phone use by drivers.
“As such, the Courts Service does not hold complete statistical information on the reasons for any case being struck out.”
However, Parc, the road safety advocacy group which has analysed the data, said such a gap in knowledge is among a number of fundamental issues it is to raise with senior garda management and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in a forthcoming meeting.
“If we don’t know the reason why [cases are being thrown out] then how are we ever going to fix it,” said chairwoman Susan Gray.
“Why are they failing in court, why so many, why are some areas like Mayo recording so few convictions, why is no one looking into this? In Mayo where the RSA is based, [there was a conviction rate of] 7 per cent over three years.”
The counties with the four major cities – Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick – accounted for 24,387 prosecutions, or 41 per cent of the total, and had a conviction rate of 19 per cent.
Outside of those areas, the counties with the highest number of speeding offences ending up in court were Kildare (6,948), Louth (2,600), and Wexford (2,055). Despite being an outlier in terms of prosecution rates, Kildare saw a conviction rate of just 10 per cent, the third lowest of 26 counties.
Conviction rates were the highest in Wexford (at 24 per cent) but three quarters of prosecutions still fell down for whatever reason. Following Wexford, drivers were most likely to be convicted in Dublin, Donegal, Longford and Westmeath (each 22 per cent), Louth (21 per cent) and Limerick (20 per cent) but no other county reached the 20 per cent mark.
Drivers were far less likely to see a conviction recorded against them in Mayo (7 per cent), Meath (8 per cent) and Kildare (10 per cent).
Catherine Murphy said the data raised a number of issues and exposed a traffic penalty system in need of greater consistency and cohesion.
“There can be a huge differential depending on what court you end up in and that shouldn’t be the case,” she said. “You would expect to see this [conviction rate] almost the reverse way around.”
She said there was no reason why data should not be recorded that shows why prosecutions do not proceed, or fail and that the overall road safety enforcement system required a less fragmented approach.