A judge has ruled that the issuing of summons by post to this county wasn’t proof a defendant had received it.
So he struck out a case against a Co Donegal man allegedly caught driving at 44mph in a 30mph zone in Aughnacloy.
The PSNI has regularly targeted drivers on a stretch of road leading into the Tyrone town – many of them from Donegal and driving home from Dublin.
The North’s Public Prosecution Service has in recent years sent out summonses by post.
But Judge John Meehan said postal summonses are a breach of international law, which require the person to be given assurances they will not be prosecuted for other offences.
He also said that there was no valid proof that a summons had been served.
He added that, in such cases, proof of lawful service or proof of evasion of a summons was a pre-requisite to proceeding if the defendant did not appear.
“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,” he said.
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.”
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.
The PPS plans to appeal the decision.
But the ruling now means that anyone who has received a summons by post could ignore it; and claim they didn’t get it.