Over half of the speeding cases taken by traffic camera operators GoSafe in the past three months have been thrown out of court.
The latest failures to prosecute speeding motorists was at Nenagh District Court last Friday when 21 out of 41 cases were dismissed by Judge Aeneas McCarthy. A further six were adjourned either at the request of a solicitor or because the judge had concerns over service of the summons.
Questions have also been raised about the location of the speed detector vans, with 35 of last Friday’s cases arising out of incidents on the R445, the majority of which were at Benamore, Roscrea, and Ballywilliam, Nenagh.
The R445 was reclassified as a regional road when the M7 opened. Up to then it was the N7 which allowed for a speed limit of 100km/h. However, because of the placing of a cycle lane in the roadside margin from Nenagh to Birdhill, that stretch has been reduced to 80km/h.
At the same court on March 13, solicitor Stephen McNamara, who was summonsed for travelling at 91km/h in an 80km/h zone at Ballywilliam, told the court that the speed limit there was “illogical”.
“It is like shooting fish in a barrel,” he told the judge, but, he said, that was not part of any defence, just his observation. Mr McNamara had also questioned how the cameras were calibrated as he had claimed he had witnessed the speed van as he travelled towards Birdhill and on his return had set his cruise control to 80km/h.
Other solicitors have questioned both the location of the vans and the speed at which motorists being issued with fixed penalty notices are travelling, with some being caught for being 8km/h over the limit.
Among the reasons for cases being dismissed was the sworn evidence of defendants that they did not receive a fixed penalty notice. These notices are not sent by registered post and it is open to people to state under oath that they did not arrive by ordinary post. One woman who travelled from Dublin produced evidence that she had paid her fine. Judge McCarthy said if it were open to him he would award her expenses. Other defendants showed they had attempted to pay the fine but their cheques were returned for various reasons, including being outside the time limit. One man claimed he was in jail at the time and therefore could not have received the letter while another had his fixed penalty notice sent to the wrong address.
Of the roughly 78 cases taken by GoSafe since January, 42 have been dismissed.
Meanwhile, a Garda spokesman said that it would be inappropriate for An Garda Síochána to comment on decisions made by the courts. The designation of specific sections of road as speed enforcement zones is based on an analysis of five years of collision data.
The spokesman said that every collision reported that resulted in a death or injury was plotted on the road network and stretches of road 1 to 5km were identified where a significant cluster of collisions occurred. Zones can be designated on any stretch of road and are not limited to junctions.
“Following the selection of a speed enforcement zone the outsourced safety camera operator, GoSafe, liaises with local members of An Garda Síochána in order to identify suitable sites to operate from.
“Each site must be clearly visible and risk assessed to ensure the health and safety of both the public and the operators of the safety camera vans.
“Once a suitable site is confirmed ongoing surveys are conducted to monitor the compliance with speed limits. Signage is erected at the start of each zone to inform road users and information on the location of all zones is made available on the Garda website,” they said.
The spokesman said that speed enforcement zones were continually reviewed in light of survey data, collision history and local feedback to ensure enforcement activity is targeted at the locations where collisions are occurring.
Meanwhile, Nenagh Municipal District Council members last week banned GoSafe from operating outside Lisbunny cemetery. Under its new draft bylaws for Lisbunny lawn cemetery, all commercial vehicles are banned from the roadway at the entrance. There had been a number of complaints from councillors over GoSafe vans using the parking space outside the cemetery to catch speeding motorists.