Nine motorists have been given fines totalling €139,000 after ignoring court prosecutions and thousands of warning letters for repeatedly avoiding paying M50 tolls.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the State agency dealing with road and public transport infrastructure, summonsed them to appear at Dublin District Court on Monday.
However, they did not attend their hearings, which went ahead in their absence, and Judge Anthony Halpin handed out fines ranging from €7,000-€25,000.
Each driver had five sample counts for unpaid tolls in December 2021 and January this year. Seven prosecutions involved regular private cars, while the other two were larger goods vehicles.
TII also revealed each motorist’s overall record of unpaid charges and the number of warning letters sent before court proceedings commenced.
Judge Halpin noted the types of vehicles, their records of outstanding charges and that most of them made no effort to pay.
TII mailed hundreds of warning letters to most defendants before bringing the court prosecutions, which can carry a potential custodial sentence.
Monday’s cases had already resulted in approximately 4,000 letters before they were sent summonses.
Judge Halpin noted they had no prior convictions for similar offences and the lack of engagement with the motorway authority. Two motorists paid tolls a few times and received the lower penalties of €7,000 and €11,000.
TII had sent one driver more than 1,000 letters over 396 unpaid journeys; she was one of two private car owners to be fined €25,000. The other had 690 unpaid tolls, and he received well over 1,000 letters.
TII obtained certificates detailing the registered owners of the vehicles, as well as the images of them passing the toll gantry on the M50 on specific dates.
Prosecuting counsel Edward Doocey BL, instructed by Pierse Fitzgibbon Solicitors, said the defendants were not in court, but Judge Halpin consented to his application to proceed in their absence.
Counsel called on a TII witness to confirm each vehicle’s ownership records, the number of passages, payment history and the relevant level of contact.
The judge heard that most did not engage with the transport agency.
On top of the fines, the judge ordered vehicle owners to pay €350 in prosecution costs within six months.
The toll prosecutions can result in fines of up to €5,000 per charge and a six-month sentence. The court has also heard it was the motorway authority’s practice to select habitual non-payers to face criminal proceedings.
At the time of the offences, the standard M50 toll for a private car was €3.20, which had to be paid before 8pm the following day or else a €3 penalty would be incurred for missing the deadline.
Motorists had 14 days to pay for the journey and the initial penalty or they would face a further €41 penalty.
After 56 days, an additional charge follows, which leads to warning letters and court proceedings if left unpaid.
The registered vehicle owner is liable even if they were not driving the vehicle when it passed through the toll.