A worthwhile event, is how Judge Seamus Hughes described his field trip to the Old Dublin Road, Athlone to see how a Go-Safe van operates this week.
The judge, who had previously expressed concern about evidence that vans have to be set up with their cameras and sight levels, found the demonstration by a Go-Safe driver very impressive.
When the morning’s court list finished at around noon on Wednesday, the judge, Inspector Farrell, a number of solicitors, and members of the press took the trip to Ballydonagh.
The driver, Jimmy, showed the judge the camera, how it’s set up, how he has to take two photographs of himself setting up the van and how he aligns the laser that catches cars at the right angle with the road.
There were around 20 minutes of measuring and aligning outside the van, and at least another 10 minutes working at the desk in the back of the van, working through the encrypted computer system to ensure that the van’s coordinates were correct and that the van, which is satellite tracked, was in the right speed limit zone.
He noted the weather, and whether there was a construction zone changing the designated speed limit in an area. He also had to prove that the vehicle was in sound condition when he left the depot.
Judge Hughes asked several questions and made comments as the procedure was described, and during the supervised test run, heard beeps as cars broke the speed limit.
He described the set up for the driver as “complicated” and requiring a lot of knowledge and training, and paid particularly close attention as Jimmy described the use of the spirit level that had caused so much concern to the court previously.
He was also concerned about what drivers do if they need to relieve themselves, and Jimmy explained that if nature calls, the three hour session has to be cut short so the driver can go back to his depot or to a Garda station, where they have permission to use the toilet facilities.
When the judge asked if drivers have a steady supply of The Beano and The Dandy to keep them busy, Jimmy explained that they are busy filling forms, checking that registration plates are clear and monitoring the quality of recordings.
He also described the personal security in the van, with four cameras outside indicating if people are near the vehicle.
There’s heating for the winter and “state of the art air conditioning that is quiet enough”.
Ivor Browne, director of Go-Safe, was at the site and said the Irish system is more meticulous than in other countries, where drivers are simply obliged to park as close to parallel with the road as they can.
“It’s a great set-up and I’m glad to have seen it,” said the judge.