Traffic cameras: Almost 4,500 prosecution cases dismissed since 2009

Irish courts have dismissed almost 4,500 motoring prosecution cases that were filmed by traffic cameras over the past six years, from 2009 to date.

The figures were confirmed by the Irish Department of Justice, following a controversial court ruling this week.

On Monday, a judge dismissed all speeding cases before a Monaghan court, involving evidence gathered by the private speed detection firm, Go Safe.

It operates vans on behalf of police, who outsourced speed detection in 2009.

Judge Sean MacBride alleged that that company that runs the Go Safe vans service had produced "flawed" evidence and was "bringing the law into disrepute".

Traffic camera prosecutions

Cases dismissed by courts by year

  • Jan - Dec 2009: 578 cases
  • Jan - Dec 2010: 534 cases
  • Jan - Dec 2011: 439 cases
  • Jan - Dec 2012: 936 cases
  • Jan - Dec 2013: 540 cases
  • 2014 to date: 1,393 cases

It is the latest setback for the firm, after 98 Go Safe cases were dismissed by Ennis District Court, County Clare, in October.

'Goldfish bowl'

Judge MacBride presides over district courts in counties Cavan and Monaghan.

During his ruling on Monday, he dismissed 17 speeding prosecutions that had been brought before Monaghan District Court.

He alleged that "the chain of evidence was inherently flawed" in Go Safe cases brought before him.

The judge said the vans often operated just inside or outside 30km/h (19mph) zones, in places where detecting speeding offences was like fishing in a "goldfish bowl".

He also complained that there were "defects in the serving of the summonses".

In recent weeks, a member of Irish parliament's transport committee, Patrick O'Donovan, asked the Department of Justice for statistics relating to the number of motoring prosecutions dismissed by the courts since 2009.

Sharp increase

The figures, seen by the BBC, show that a total of 4,420 cases have been thrown out of courts across the Republic of Ireland over the past six years.

The statistics include all traffic camera offences, including evidence gathered by private firms and the police.

The statistics showed a sharp increase in prosecution dismissals this year, rising from 540 during the 2013 calendar year to 1,393 from January 2014 to date.

In a statement to the BBC, a spokeswoman for the Irish Department of Justice said it was "not in a position to comment on the outcome of specific cases before the courts".

Legal advice

However she said the department has asked the Garda (police) authorities for a report on the cases dismissed by Monaghan District Court.

"Separately, the department can confirm that it has received an initial report from the Garda authorities in relation to those cases (at Ennis District Court) which outlines the issues raised in court and notes that the Gardaí are seeking legal advice regarding the decisions in those cases," she added.

Mr O'Donovan told Irish state broadcaster RTÉ that the cases thrown out by Monaghan District Court and Ennis District Court were not new, from his point of view.

"Prosecutions being brought before the courts have been thrown out in Limerick as well and, what I found then as a result, was that this wasn't just confined to one particular area, nor has it been confined to any period in time.

"This has been going on for a long period of time," Mr O'Donovan added.

He said it was "definitely something that needs to be addressed".

A police spokesman told the BBC that officers were "reviewing the court's decision and therefore are unable to make a comment at this time".

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