Belfast Telegraph

Scandal of 5,000 speeding drivers let off as vehicles are registered outside the UK

By Adrian Rutherford

Police turned a blind eye to more than 5,000 speeding motorists in the last two years, it can be revealed.

Seven drivers a day were let off, as their cars were registered outside the UK and officers couldn't make them pay their fines.

The figures, released by the PSNI after a Freedom of Information request, have been branded "scandalous" by one MLA.

Ukip representative David McNarry said: "Here is another scandal.

"There cannot be one law for local people and a blind-eye law for those with non-UK registrations."

The figures are believed to mainly include Republic of Ireland drivers. They come following a weekend when another two lives were lost on our roads.

Police said they do not have the power to enforce fines outside the UK. Earlier this year it emerged that proposals which would prevent cross-border motorists escaping justice had run into trouble.

According to PSNI figures, in the 12 months to April this year some 2,907 cases involving motorists caught speeding were not pursued because their vehicle was "foreign".

That has jumped by 26% on the previous year, when 2,291 cases were ignored.

In its response, the PSNI said the speeding detections were not pursued by the Road Safety Partnership "because the vehicle was recorded as a foreign vehicle".

On Thursday the Belfast Telegraph reported that the number of drivers caught speeding on Northern Ireland roads has trebled in the last decade.

Last year, 48,272 motorists were clocked going too fast. One camera, on the Saintfield Road between Belfast and Carryduff, snapped 6,534 drivers - one every 75 minutes.

Mr McNarry said it was unfair that some drivers were escaping punishment.

"The numbers are staggering - unbelievable," he added. "They indicate a flouting of the law - a 'you can't catch us mate' attitude.

"I just don't think it's good enough. It is a licence to break the law - these people have no fear of the law."

The PSNI's head of roads policing, Superintendent Gerry Murray, said a gap in the law meant fines could not be enforced.

"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," he said.

"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 face the prospect of arrest, charge and a court appearance.

"Regardless of where a motorist resides, they should obey the speed limits and drive at a speed that will always ensure the safety of other road users."

In March 2013, the then Environment Minister Alex Attwood launched a public consultation on plans for the mutual recognition of penalty points on both sides of the border. It would mean motorists could not escape penalty points for speeding and drink-driving when they cross the border.

However, the project has stalled due to legal complexities.

A Department of the Environment spokesperson said: "The project is still paused pending further investigations of complex policy issues. This work is ongoing.

"Ministers both North and South remain committed to resolving current difficulties and to moving this important issue forward as quickly as possible."

Driving disqualifications can be enforced on both sides of the border.

In 2010, legislation was introduced to ensure drivers who are disqualified in the Republic, Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK will have it enforced within each jurisdiction.

It means drivers from Northern Ireland or the rest of the UK who are disqualified in the Republic no longer escape that punishment when they return home.

Likewise, disqualifications for Irish drivers while in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK will be enforced in the Republic.

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