Tuesday, 3 October 2006
Road Traffic and Transport Bill 2006: Committee and Remaining Stages
Martin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
This issue was debated at some length before. Tying the hands of judges in all cases is not necessarily the best. A member of the Garda Síochána who suspects an individual for dangerous driving can arrest him or her without a warrant. A person convicted of dangerous driving causing death or serious body harm can be sentenced to penal servitude, in other words a prison term up to ten years, or at the discretion of the court, a fine of up to €15,000, or both. In any other case, a fine up to €2,500 can be imposed or, at the discretion of the court, imprisonment for up to six months, or both. In addition a person convicted of a first offence of dangerous driving may face disqualification for driving for one year. For a second and subsequent offence it can be two years.
Where death or serious injury occurs, the individual can be disqualified from two years for a first offence and four years for a second or subsequent offence. In the case of a first offence of dangerous driving where death or serious injury did not occur, the court has the option, where it is satisfied that a special reason which has been provided by the convicted person exists, to decline a consequential disqualification order or to specify a period of disqualification in the disqualification order of less than one year.
The Road Traffic Act 2006 provides for increases to fines for road traffic offences and to periods of disqualification relating to consequential disqualification orders, including those relating to drink driving. The Act removes from the court the option to decline to make a disqualification order in the case of a first offence of dangerous driving. These provisions will commence presently.
The will of the Oireachtas is clear. Not all dangerous driving cases are related to drink. Dangerous driving can occur in, say, a car park. Some discretion must be in place for the courts in the particular cases that come before them. The will of the Oireachtas is clear that in cases where drink driving is involved, the convicted person should lose their licence. The will of the Oireachtas should be observed and listened to by the courts.