Judge slams ‘ducking of the tot-up system’

Dungannon Court
Dungannon Court

A District Judge has slammed efforts to duck the ‘tot-up system’ on penalty points.

The comments came at a hearing of Dungannon Magistrates Court in which a farmer was seeking to be spared a mandatory six-month disqualification after accumulating too many penalty points.

District Judge John Meehan criticised the fact the defence proffered the same mitigation less than three months beforehand in a different court for a similar offence.

William Alistair Gribben (45), of Farlough Road, Portadown was observed by police driving whilst talking on his mobile phone on March 19 in the Thomas Street area of Dungannon.

Officers then observed him carry out a manoeuvre whilst continuing to talk on the phone. He could not be dealt with by Fixed Penalty Notice as he already had nine active penalty points.

His defence submitted a special reasons application and a hearing was convened to ascertain why Gribben should not be automatically given three penalty points and a six-month driving ban. Giving evidence in the witness box, Gribben confirmed he is a beef farmer and a haulage driver.

Gribben contended the loss of his licence would mean his haulage work would cease and he would be required to hire someone to tend to his herd.

The defence argued this amounted to Gribben’s income being severely detrimentally affected by the potential loss of licence.

However, looking into the defendant’s record, Judge Meehan noted a relevant entry less than three months before which was dealt with leniently.

He said, “There is a comfortable arrangement between some practitioners and some courts whereby the judiciary may give an alternative outcome. I do not condone this. It is an illegitimate exercise to use in the instance of a mandatory totting up of penalty points. It is the ducking of the totting up procedure. The law is very clear on special circumstances. You cannot use the same defence in three years. And you cannot have your cake and eat it.”

The defence replied, “In the Coleraine matter no specific special circumstances was made and the court clerk made no note of the reasons put forward.”

Judge Meehan said, “Put these matters before any higher judge and they will come back and tell magistrates courts, you just cannot do that.”

Rejecting the application, Judge Meehan imposed a fine of £160 with three penalty points leading to a total of 12 and a ban of six months.