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Motorists from Republic of Ireland dodge £610k in speed fines as PSNI can't trace them

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 22/02/2016

TUV leader Jim Allister
TUV leader Jim Allister

Police ignored more than 10,000 motorists caught speeding on Northern Ireland's roads in the past three years.

Drivers walked away from fines worth at least £610,000 because they could not be traced.

All were non-UK nationals and benefited from a loophole in the law that stops the PSNI pursuing them outside the jurisdiction.

On average, police turned a blind eye to 10 speeding drivers every day. It is believed the vast majority of them were from the Republic.

TUV leader Jim Allister hit out at the loophole and called for immediate action.

"It is absolutely scandalous that local motorists are subject to all the rigours of the law, but if you are from outside the jurisdiction it seems that you have a bye ball," he said. "It is time that the authorities applied the law equally."

Details of non-UK nationals' speeding offences were released to this newspaper after a Freedom of Information request.

Between 2013 and 2015, a total of 10,227 motorists caught by speed cameras in Northern Ireland could not be traced and went unpunished.

The PSNI was unable to provide a breakdown of their nationalities, and as such unable to identify the number of drivers from the Republic.

Anyone caught speeding faces a fine of at least £60.

It means penalties totalling at least £613,620 have been dodged in the past three years.

The most recent statistics, relating to 2014, show a total of 42,429 people were caught on speed cameras across Northern Ireland. Yet in the same year, 3,426 could not be traced and so escaped punishment.

Speed remains one of the biggest killers on our roads. PSNI statistics show that during 2014 alone it was the main factor in more than 280 accidents.

These resulted in 88 people being killed or seriously injured. A further 425 suffered less serious injuries.

The extent of unpunished speeding offences alarmed road safety experts.

Road safety charity Brake said: "Speed limits exist for a reason, and it is vital that they are obeyed, no matter what country the driver is from.

"That's why we need traffic enforcement to be made a policing priority, with higher on-the-spot fines providing a real and immediate deterrent to risky law-breaking drivers."

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, described the figures as "startling". "Any suggestion that foreign drivers can get away with speeding or other serious driving offences clearly has a road safety impact," Mr Greig said. "This is particularly important in Northern Ireland, where we have the only shared border with another European country."

The PSNI said anyone caught speeding by a police officer would be prosecuted, regardless of their nationality.

Inspector Rosie Leech from Roads Policing added: "At the moment, the PSNI does not have the power to enforce motoring legislation or pursue outstanding fines outside of Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom. "However, while drivers from outside Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom do not as yet receive penalty points or fines for speeding offences detected by the Northern Ireland Road Safety Partnership, they do not escape prosecution if detected by police officers.

"If detected by police, drivers who are willing to accept and abide by the conditions of a fixed penalty may be dealt with at the roadside, otherwise they face the prospect of arrest, charge and a court appearance."

In March 2013, then Environment Minister Alex Attwood launched a public consultation on plans for the mutual recognition of penalty points on both sides of the border. However, the project stalled because of legal complexities.

A Department of the Environment spokesperson said: "Work continues to implement the mutual recognition of penalty points on the island of Ireland for speeding, drink-driving, not wearing seatbelts, and use of mobile phones."

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