“a challenging project for which there is no agreed international framework…”

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Despite having agreed “a detailed timetable” at a North South Ministerial Council in October 2012 “to bring in new laws for the mutual recognition of penalty points in both jurisdictions

The Ministers agreed the detailed timetable for the drafting, passage and enactment of parallel legislation, north and south, by 31st December 2014 to allow the mutual recognition of penalty points across Ireland.

The timetable was agreed at today’s North South Ministerial Council Transport Meeting in Armagh, where Minister Varadkar met with the Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy MLA, and the Minister of the Environment, Alex Attwood MLA.

And having launched a public consultation in Northern Ireland in March last year,

Minister Attwood said: “This consultation is an important step forward in improving road safety on the island of Ireland. It seeks opinions on closing the loophole that currently allows Northern Ireland motorists to escape penalty points they have incurred in the Republic of Ireland and vice versa. People will now think twice about speeding or not wearing seatbelts when they cross the border if this is introduced.

There is no model in Europe for the mutual recognition of penalty points by two jurisdictions. This is groundbreaking work and, in the fullness of time, it will be a template for other members of the European Union, should they choose to follow what we do.

It is now being reported that the proposal has been “paused” because of “complex policy issues”.   The Irish Government recently enacted a new Road Traffic Act, without mentioning the issue.

According to the spokespeople for the ministers quoted in the Belfast Telegraph report

“Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has met with Leo Varadkar on a number of occasions.

“At this meeting ministers agreed to pause the project to allow further investigations of complex policy issues.

“Mr Durkan firmly believes that for the policy to be workable and effective, but these further investigations are essential.”

Sources within the Irish Government also confirmed to the Irish Mail on Sunday that the project had effectively ground to a halt, although a spokesman for Mr Varadkar told the paper the project was still going ahead.

The spokesman said: “Plans are still under way to proceed with the mutual recognition of penalty points.

“The Republic and Northern Ireland are the first two jurisdictions in the EU to undertake this proposal and it remains a key priority for governments on both sides of the border.”

However, Gerry Moriarty’s report in the Irish Times identifies a “key problem”.

Agreeing legal protocols however has proved very difficult, spokesmen for the Department of Transport and the North’s new environment Minister Mark H Durkan said yesterday (Sunday).

“We are still fully committed to making this happen but there are legal matters to be examined and the new system won’t happen this year. But we are still confident it can proceed,” said Mr Varadkar’s spokesman.

One of the key problems is to establish a system where summonses issued in the Republic to people living outside the State would be legally recognised, it is understood. The Department of Justice and the Attorney General Maire Whelan have been called in to determine if the problems can be resolved. [added emphasis]

And, presumably, vice versa.  [Has David Ford been asked to comment? - Ed]  Possibly… But it’s not as if the issue has suddenly occurred to them.

Back in July 2012 I noted that…

…a Northern Ireland judge has ruled that “its courts do not have the jurisdiction to proceed with cases where the defendant is resident outside the UK unless a summons has been served on them through the court.”

According to the report at the time

The test case was brought after a man with Donegal address and an Irish driver’s licence was caught travelling at 44mph in a 30mph speed zone in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, on February 15th.

A test case was brought as this was the first such case to be brought before Judge Meehan since the PPS [Public Prosecution Service] started issuing new cover letters to defendants living outside the UK a number of months ago.

The judge said that, since 2009, it appeared the PPS had started posting summonses to defendants living in Ireland.

He said that, up until earlier this year, it had been his practice to strike out all summonses where, as in this case, the defendant did not appear, on the basis that there was no valid proof that a summons had been served.

And, specifically

In his conclusion Judge Meehan said: “The PPS have been proceeding on the basis that the Northern Ireland rules about the acknowledgement of postal service and pleas of guilty by post can now be treated as applying internationally. They cannot.” [added emphasis]

He added the PPS had “taken up their position without, I fear, considering what the Irish State might make of all this.

“That is most unfortunate, for example, in the context of protracted and continuing negotiations aimed at the mutual recognition of penalty points for motorists by Northern Ireland and Ireland.”

There might, I would suggest, possibly be constitutional issues to consider if attempting to extend legal jurisdiction one way or t’other…

Which would be why no other two jurisdictions in the EU have undertaken this proposal.

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