Minister relying on Garda discretion to avoid prosecution
Drivers who are waiting weeks for new driving licences to issue are being forced into a position where they are breaking the law by not being in possession of a valid licence, Denis Naughten TD has highlighted.
Responding to concerns raised by Denis Naughten, Minister Varadkar stated that he is relying on Garda discretion to ensure that drivers are not prosecuted for not being in possession of a valid driving licence when they are stopped.
However a further anomaly arises which places a question mark over their insurance because the new licence is not issued from the date of application but from the actual date of issue, which could leave drivers without valid insurance while the application is being processed.
In the Dáil today (Tuesday) Denis Naughten called on the Taoiseach to directly intervene to have the backlog addressed and to have the legal anomaly closed off.
“Government should not have to rely on Garda discretion to deal with this mess and instead must ensure that resources are provided to address the backlog so that drivers are not left for weeks running the gauntlet of the road traffic laws,” stated Denis Naughten.
“The legal anomalies associated with this problem also need to be closed off as a matter of urgency, as drivers should not have to be dependent on the discretion of an individual member of the Gardai when they are fully compliant with the law.”
Application made a local office on 2nd December. Efficient & effective service.
New licence received 43 days later.
New licence valid from 9th January 2014, not date of application
Old licence did not expire until end of January 2014, but applicant did not get this back, so could not be in position to produce it
To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the difficulties facing drivers who are awaiting renewal of their driving licence due to the fact that they are not in possession of a licence if stopped by Gardai and are also prevented from hiring a vehicle; his plans to allow a person to retain their driving licence pending the issuing of a new licence to address this situation; his plans to address the delays in processing renewals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Denis Naughten.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 28th January, 2014. Ref No: 3844/14
To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to delays in issuing driving licences since the National Driver Licence Services took over, that despite promising issuing renewal licences within eight days while it now takes upwards of eight weeks, and his views on the matter..
– Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 28th January, 2014.
Answered by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
I propose to take questions 802,80,3 805 and 808 together. The National Driver Licensing Service (NDLS) is the statutory responsibility of the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
I met with the acting CEO of the RSA last month to discuss the difficulties people have experienced, and how the RSA proposed to address them.
The RSA acknowledged that there were teething problems when the service opened for business on 29 October 2013. Some were technical and systems issues, while others related to new staff becoming familiar with rules and processes around driving licences and permits.
The RSA has responded by increasing resources in NDLS centres experiencing delays, as well as in the licence processing centre, and providing further training to staff. There are no major technical difficulties now affecting the service. A booking system to allow for customers to make appointments has been operating in a Pilot Phase which was successful. This system will now be provided in all NDLS offices.
While I understand that there are still some backlogs in relation to applications, the situation has improved. I have been informed that licence applications that are fully and correctly completed are being issued within 8 days. The RSA has assured me that the remaining backlog will be cleared by mid-February. The NDLS can also respond to urgent situations where a licence is needed for travel abroad or for work purposes.
The main reason people are asked to return old licences when renewing their licence is to provide assurance that the old licence is no longer in circulation. Given the fact that driving licences are used for identification in many contexts, it is important to minimise the risk of identity fraud. The best way to ensure that old licences cannot be amended in some way and fraudulently reused is for the State to require their return.
This practice may raise concerns regarding the legal requirement to produce a licence when requested by a member of An Garda Síochána. If the person cannot produce the licence at the time, the law allows ten days in which to produce it at a Garda station. In most cases, if a licence is in process, this is sufficient time for the new licence to arrive. Where it is not, the Gardaí may choose to exercise discretion.
I understand that the NDLS has advised the Gardaí of the delays with issuing some licences.