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CITY TRIBUNE

Judge dismisses parking prosecutions due to glitch in law

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Dozens of parking summonses have been either struck out or adjourned at Galway District Court due to a glitch in the legislation.

Judge Alan Mitchell gave lawyers for Galway City Council the opportunity to prove him wrong on this matter, but they were unable to do so.

“There is a potentially appalling vista, until this is rectified,” he said of this issue of legislation, which is badly affecting local councils when they attempt to prosecute.

The issue relates to pay-and-display prosecutions, brought before the court either because a person ‘over stayed their welcome’ or had no ticket displayed; this did not affect other types of parking fines, however, which went ahead as normal.

In cases where the defendant was in court, the Judge struck out their summons – although this does not stop the local authority from bringing a prosecution in the future. For those who were absent, their cases were adjourned to a date in April.

“What is important in the law is that there is some consistencies,” Judge Mitchell said.

The issue arose over the awarding of costs to the prosecutors, which the Judge said he does not allow unless there is a statutory provision for it.

Solicitor for Galway City Council, Edward Molloy, asked the Judge to reconsider.

“The court might take into account the considerable level of work involved, and the number of opportunities given to resolve the cases. It is a big effort to organise this on behalf of Galway City Council, ourselves, and the court services, to make sure it goes smoothly.”

The Judge acknowledged this, and said that while the District Court rules allowed for discretion, his view was that if it was not specifically provided for in Statute he would not award costs.

He requested a copy of the specific by-laws that the Council intended to rely on for the purpose of prosecution.

“They don’t comply with the law,” the Judge replied.

“It has to be proved under documentary evidence or printed by the Statutory office…. There is a fundamental difficulty by the Oireachtas passing the 2004 Act and having to prove under documentary evidence, which is providing difficulty for the City Council.”

Judge Mitchell allowed Mr Molloy and his colleague time to verify or dispute his point of view.

“On a previous occasion I struck-out all summonses, and I was judicially reviewed. I want to allow the City Council to engage with me that my understanding of the Road Traffic by-laws is correct. I will allow time to see if they can address this.

“When I saw the lacunae I checked, and it seems to be something that local authorities may be having difficulty with. If the law is as is, then it is not for me to award costs. I would rather not be judicially reviewed, as this would cause everything to grind to a halt.”

He explained the delay to the large number of people waiting for their cases to be heard that a previous court had struck-out all cases where the prosecution was unable to produce the relevant document they were relying on.

“The Court of Appeal, however, said that they should have been allowed time to produce it,” he said.

Mr Molloy was unable to satisfy the Judge in this regard, and he proceeded to go through the list of hundreds of names – adjourning the relevant cases of those who did not attend, and striking-out those who were there.

“They will be struck out today, but if the local authority decides or the High Court decides that I’m wrong, they may be re-issued,” Judge Mitchell said.

“This is definitely not the end of it. That’s a matter for the City Council and how it decides to deal with it.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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