Two-thirds of court fines in Longford going unpaid

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Longford District Court: Dogs were 'worrying' cattle

Newly released figures show more and more fines handed out by courts in Longford are going unpaid

Close to two thirds of court fines in Longford are not being paid, new figures have shown.

They show hundreds of monetary penalties handed down to people before the courts have still to be recouped.

Figures released to the Leader under the Freedom of Information Act revealed there were 1,067 fines imposed at district court level last year.

To date, approximately 659 of those remain outstanding, meaning 62 per cent of all fines issued have still to be settled. The figures also show the level of evasion in paying court imposed fines has increased sharply over the past two years.

In 2015, District Court Judge Seamus Hughes handed down an identical number of fines (1,067) to the the overall number accounted for in 2016.

However, just 192 or less than 18 per cent went unpaid with an even smaller 126 court sanctioned fines going unsettled in 2014.

The findings also confirm how rising car insurance premiums have resulted in an increasing number of drivers being brought before the courts in Longford.

Since 2014, nearly 900 suspected no insurance cases were heard by Judge Seamus Hughes.

In a somewhat surprising twist, just over half of those resulted in convictions being recorded underlining the Mayo judge’s new tough handed approach to escalating car insurance premiums.

Speaking back in June, Judge Hughes hit out at how “excessive” car insurance premiums was leading to more and more young drivers being charged with no insurance.

“Half the youth population of this country are blighted with excessive car premiums of €5,000-€6,000,” he said.

“We are in a vicious cycle and the powers that be need to do something about the exaggerated and irresponsible actions by claims managers.”

In 2015, the District Court judge presided over 284 no insurance cases in Longford, culminating in a modest 48 per cent conviction rate.

Last year, that figure rose to 56 per cent, owing largely to the increased 321 episodes of alleged no insurance which were heard by the District Court.

Chairperson of Longford County Council’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) Cllr Gerry Warnock said the burden of responsibility in addressing low collection rates and rising no insurance offences fell squarely on government leaders.

“There probably is quite a bit of sympathy out there,” he said when asked about the reasons for the high number of overdue fines in Longford.

“I think there is bigger fish to fry to be honest. I think the only way insurance premiums issued to young drivers by companies can be addressed is by central government.”