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Judge throws out dozens of speed cases over van

Motorists caught speeding on Church Street in Ballinasloe who turned up to court – or were represented by a solicitor – all had their cases dismissed after a judge described the speed van location as dangerous and likely to cause accidents.

A total of 53 motorists were summonsed to appear in court after the GoSafe van captured them driving at over the speed limit of 50kph.

Judge James Faughnan said the van was parked “hiding” behind a wall near a church and a filling station. When he watched traffic one day he saw four motorists jamming on their breaks to avoid getting done by the speed camera.

“The location is dangerous. It’s going to lead to accidents – not prevent them,” he declared.

He questioned Inspector Conor Madden – in charge of roads policing in Galway – about whether the GoSafe vans got permission from the Gardaí about where they would park.

Insp Madden said Gardaí don’t issue directions about the exact location but rather give the operators of the GoSafe vans an indication of accident blackspots based on the feedback from their own officers, Galway County Council and members of the public.

“I’m very conscious of a number of road traffic incidents at that location. Some have resulted in very serious injuries,” he told Ballinasloe District Court.

Judge Faughnan asked him to provide the statistics on the serious accidents at this exact location but Insp Madden said he did not have this in court.

“I’d have no problem if it was parked 40 metres up the road or on the other side where visibility was good,” he said.

“It’s hiding in behind a wall. It’s shooting fish in a barrel and that’s not doing what it should do, which is slowing down traffic…this is entrapment the way it’s being done.”

The District Court Judge said the mission statement of the GoSafe operators made no mention of targeting motorists in “surreptitious locations”.

“It’s causing people to fret, jam on brakes, the very thing you’re trying to prevent.”

He said if a risk assessment was carried out at this location it would surely have found it dangerous.

He told the Inspector he also had a doubt about the ownership of the ground where the van was parked on Church Street, and he had to be certain about that before he criminalised a motorist. Inspector Madden said Galway County Council owned the land but no evidence to that effect was presented.

He was also concerned that many of the cases clocked motorists at 59km/h, which he described as “hugely coincidental” and the Gardaí should have concerns about the calibration of the speeding machines.

Of the 53 cases, he convicted on nine of the cases where defendants did not show up or were not represented by solicitors, fining them either €200 or €250. The Gardaí struck out six cases on the basis of not having correct paperwork. A further three cases were adjourned to give the defendants a chance to turn up in court after they were caught speeding twice and faced losing their licence.

“You’re not going to be the benefit if you ignore the administration of justice, you won’t be getting any bounces off me,” he exclaimed.

Pictured: GoSafe van…Judge critical of van’s location in Ballinasloe.

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