“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]

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  • George

    District Court judge in understanding rules of service in criminal prosecution shocker. Really don’t know where the PPS got the idea that you can serve a summons in a criminal matter to someone outside of the jurisdiction.

    I might point to the relevant District Court rule (Order 15 Rule 7) in Ireland regarding service of a summons in Ireland:

    A summons may be served in any part of the State and upon service being effected in a manner prescribed by these Rules, the person against whom the complaint is made or the offence is alleged shall be as effectively bound by the proceedings as if he or she resided within the area of jurisdiction of the Judge issuing it or (if issued out of an appropriate office) within the limits of the court area or areas to which the appropriate Clerk whose name is specified on the summons has been assigned.”

    I hope I am reading this post correctly and it is highlighting the thorny issue of proof of service and not about the rather less newsworthy fact that someone somewhere in Northern Ireland has made a reference to Donegal being “international”?

  • son of sam

    Reading between the lines of the last sentence,it seems likely that the P P S may be taking up the option of asking the District Judge to state a case for consideration by the High Court.Given the implications of the ruling,it may be prudent to have a more authoritative exposition of the law.

  • Pete Baker

    George

    “I hope I am reading this post correctly and it is highlighting the thorny issue of proof of service…”

    You are. And the fact that the PPS appear to be appealing the ruling.

    That the issue is the jurisdiction of the courts, and the application of internal rules on an international basis, is simply an added bonus. 😉