27. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the fact that still large numbers of speeding cases are being struck out in District Courts; her further views on the fact that significant numbers of convicted persons are not having their licences recorded; the measures she is taking to ensure consistency in the enforcement of traffic law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40316/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will be aware, under the Constitution, Judges are independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on how cases are disposed of by a Court.
I indicated to the Deputy in my response to the Deputy's parliamentary question on these matters on 15 November 2016 (Question Number 40) that I had requested clarification from both the Courts Service and An Garda Síochána in relation to the level of speeding cases being struck out in the District Courts. As stated already, a significant percentage of cases are struck out for non-service. Where a summons is struck out, An Garda Síochána may apply to the appropriate court office for the reissue of the summons.
Following enquiries by my Department, I am informed by the Courts Service that it does not record the reason why a summons has the order 'strike out' applied. The Courts Service has indicated that the reasons for 'strike out' can be varied and could include the Judge not being satisfied that the summons was properly issued, or properly served on the accused.
The Deputy is already aware that An Garda Síochána established a working group to monitor the level of summons service throughout the country and to examine how the rate of summons service can be improved. I will be in contact with the Deputy directly as soon I have received a report from this working group.
The Deputy is also aware that an amendment has been brought forward at Committee Stage to the Road Traffic Bill 2016 by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, to amend section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 to create a revised procedure for the production of a driving licence in court and a process to record whether it was so produced. On conviction, the Judge will ask the person to produce their licence. The court will then record the details of the driving licence. Failure to produce the driving licence will be recorded and will constitute an offence. The Judge will, of course, still retain the discretion, which already exists, to adjourn the case to a later date and allow the person to produce their driving licence or learner permit at that point. In tandem with the new arrangements, it is intended that the wording of the summons will be changed to indicate that a person is required to bring their driving licence or learner permit with them to court and that failure to produce it to the court, if required under section 22, is an offence.
I strongly support this amendment to road traffic legislation, as it will provide the necessary consistency in the courts to enforce road traffic legislation more effectively. The issues surrounding the application of Court-awarded penalty points to driving licences remain a priority for the multi-agency Criminal Justice (Fixed Charge Processing System) Working Group; chief of which involves the facilitation of the development of the Master Licence Record (MLR) project. This Working Group is jointly chaired by my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and will report to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and I at the end of this year on the MLR project progress and other key matters. The significance of the MLR project is such that when the project is implemented, the linking of vehicle and driving licence databases will facilitate the consistent application of penalty points to driving licences, thereby improving the effectiveness of road traffic enforcement measures.