Judge gets tough with uninsured drivers
Published 16/09/2011 | 02:10
A judge who once fined race ace Eddie Irvine has declared war on Northern Ireland’s uninsured motorists.
District Judge Eamon King has warned that he will double the financial penalties he usually imposes on anyone caught driving without insurance.
As the cases of more than 400 alleged offenders are listed for mention in magistrates’ courts across Northern Ireland over the next week, Mr King said he also intends to ask the PSNI to adopt a “zero tolerance” approach and seize vehicles from anyone caught behind the wheel while uninsured.
His outburst came during a sitting of Newry Magistrates Court this week as he dealt with a number of cases involving uninsured motorists.
He said that some people are taking the risk and not buying insurance as they believe that if they are caught, the court penalty will be less than they would have paid for insurance.
“I want the general public to know that anyone who appears before this court for driving without insurance, the financial penalty I currently impose will be doubled,” said Mr King.
“We’ll soon see if that has any effect on reducing the number of no insurance cases. I am giving this notice so that people cannot say that they weren’t warned.”
It is not the first time Mr King has ticked off uninsured motorists.
In 2006 the outspoken district judge fined ex-Formula One star Irvine (left) £700 and imposed eight penalty points on his licence for speeding and driving without insurance.
Mr King said at the time: “Irvine, of all people, should take this responsibility most seriously.
“He is a person that people look up to.”
The Conlig sportsman was caught driving his BMW at 75mph in a 60mph zone on the A1 carriageway near Banbridge and charged with speeding and being uninsured.
The driving without insurance conviction was later dropped after Irvine realised that he actually had been insured all along. In the most extreme cases, district judges can impose a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a six-month jail term.
PSNI officers also have the power to seize vehicles from uninsured motorists under Article 21 of the Road Traffic NI Order.
Stormont justice c ommittee member Basil McCrea said he thinks that other judges should consider adopting a similar approach to Mr King’s.
“I feel uninsured drivers are an absolute menace and should feel the full weight of the law,” the UUP MLA said.
“I’d have no problem with courts toughening their penalties or for police to seize vehicles from uninsured drivers.”
District Judge Eamon King is known for his outspoken views. He was once the subject of a complaint to the Lord Chief Justice after saying in court that a Londonderry man charged with breaching the peace after taking down flags from a lamppost during the marching season should be “commended”. He also once fined race ace Eddie Irvine for speeding and not having car insurance.