“A person in county Donegal… may know of a process against him being before a court in Northern Ireland but that alone is not sufficient”

Here’s an interesting, if legally technical, story from the Irish Times.  Apparently 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.”  And that includes Ireland.  From the Irish Times report

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 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.

As the Irish Times report also notes

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.”

Judge Meehan said the court would be able to proceed in the defendant’s absence and without him being served within the UK “only after particular and additional efforts have been made to persuade him to appear”.

He said this could only be the case where the defendant and the Irish State were given “clear and precise assurances” relating to immunity from prosecution for any other offences during the time the defendant was answering the case in the Northern Ireland court.

A spokeswoman for the PPS said the service could not comment on the matter as it was subject to an appeal. [added emphasis]