Court decision could increase speeding around Mullingar

A judge has adjourned all cases relating to speed van summonses in his district until after a senior Garda review brought to light by a Prime Time report earlier this week is published.

Judge Seamus Hughes made the decision in the District Court in Athlone following a challenge from Ian Hennessy, Willsbrook Avenue, Lucan, Co Dublin on Wednesday (April 2 ), and it will cover all such cases in Mullingar, Athlone, and Longford.

Curiously Mr Hennessy brought his challenge against the summons because he contended someone else was driving his car at Ballycumber, Co Offaly on October 12, and not because of the recently undermined validity of the vans.

Because Mr Hennessy had notified GoSafe, the Isle of Man-based consortium who got the €80m State contract to operate the vans in 2009, of his intent to contest the charge, they had the operator of the van in question in court to give evidence.

However, on the night before court, RTÉ’s Prime Time had produced a whistleblower-led exposé on the accuracy of these vans, and by coincidence the judge had seen it and assumed this is what led to the challenge.

Inspector Aidan Minnock corrected him on this, explaining that Mr Hennessy had not turned the page of the summons where the section to declare a third party driver was, but nonetheless Judge Hughes continued with his cross-examination of the GoSafe operator in the witness box.

The judge raised some of the technical issues the witness’s pixellated colleague had made the night before.

“What’s this about bubbles in a spirit level?” asked the judge.  

The van operator conceded that if the set-up of the laser and camera tripod in the back of the van was not impeccably level, there was scope for inaccuracies, however: “this [an appeal] has never happened to me”.

The judge asked how long this process took to set up, and was told “five or 10 minutes”, a period which included the standing of a calibration staff at a set distance back from the van to triangulate the equipment.

This procedure must be done separately at every location where the van sets up, and according to Prime Time’s source this may not have been the case, especially in the early days of implementation when the threat of vandalism and arson was quite high.

“I’m curious. I’ve seen these vans on the side of the roads for a while and I’ve never seen anyone do this. Show of hands? Anybody in the court ever seen anybody do this?” he asked, and not one hand went up.

Checking with his staff as to when he next had a short list, he asked the GoSafe operator if he would take the officers of the court out and show them the set-up procedure.

When this was agreed he adjourned a decision on this case until June 18.

According to recent figures GoSafe makes between €2.5 million and €3 million a year, making about 72,000 detections per annum by providing a minimum of 6,000 hours of coverage a month.

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