Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Public Accounts Committee

2018 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 22: Courts Service

9:00 am

Mr. Peter Mullan:

Unfortunately it is a complicated issue and to answer it properly I will have to go through it properly, if the Deputy does not mind.

The Fines Act requires a number of different elements to operate. It requires a fine to be levied, the fines notice to go unpaid, a fines enforcement notice to be served and then for a person to reappear before the court. This takes a period of time. We have found that large numbers of people do not appear before the courts. Up to one third of defendants do not appear before the courts for a second appearance. It is for this reason bench warrants are issued. Those bench warrants must then be executed by the Garda to bring people back to the system. It is fair to say this is one of the reason the Fines Act does not operate in the manner envisaged.

Earlier this year, the law was clarified with regard to the traditional prosecutor being in court. Traditionally, a garda in court was the prosecutor and it was that garda who made the application for a bench warrant. Because there was no garda present, certain judges took the view they should not issue a bench warrant, as there would be no application. There was a case stated to the High Court on the matter and it was clarified in May this year that there is no necessity to have a prosecutor in court and that the appropriate order is not to strike out the matter if the prosecutor is there. This is another reason the Fines Act-----