A van driver accused of dodging M50 tolls more than 1,100 times has been given more time to pay for his road trips.
Almost 50 motorists accused of evading the charge were given a reprieve on Monday at Dublin District Court.
Judge Anthony Halpin said while he takes these prosecutions very seriously he was adjourning the bulk of the cases due to the new Covid-19 restrictions imposed in the capital at the weekend. He noted defendants had been notified about their scheduled court date, but he said they may not know if the new Level-3 rules applied on coming to court in Dublin, he said.
Most cases were put back until a date in November.
Des Long, of Rathsallagh Park, Shankill, Dublin, attended the court on Monday. Last October, Judge Halpin heard he faced allegations of 1,139 unpaid trips on the motorway after he bought his new van in December 2018.Mr Long said he had not been able to pay because he got laid off. Prosecuting counsel Thomas Rice BL (instructed by Pierse Fitzgibbon Solicitors) said the accused was back in employment.
Judge Halpin adjourned the case until December when it will be listed for mention and for the accused to keep to an agreement to pay the tolls due. It would then be adjourned until March, the judge told him.
Mr Long complained that would put him under stress leading up to Christmas but Judge Halpin told him he should have paid his tolls. Earlier he was warned he was facing up to €25,000 in fines instead. The court had heard he had been sent 4,417 reminder letters over the motorway charges in his new van which incurred a toll of €5.30 each time he used the M50.
Eight others had their cases struck out after resolving their debts with the motorway operator.
Fines of up to €5,000 per charge as well as a sentence of up to six months can be imposed.The court has heard the motorway authority only selected habitual non-payers to face criminal proceedings.
The standard M50 toll for an unregistered private car is €3.10 must be paid before 8pm the following day or else there is a €3.00 penalty for missing the deadline. Motorists have 14 days from the date of issue to pay for the journey and the initial penalty; otherwise a further penalty of €41 is applied. After a further 56 days there is an additional penalty charge of €103 and if it remains unpaid legal proceedings follow with the possibility of a court fine of up to €5,000 as well as a jail term of six-months, or both, per offence.
Commercial and goods vehicle owners have to pay higher tolls. The registered owner of a vehicle is responsible even if they were not driving the vehicle.