2dn February, 2022
The use of the ‘court poor box’ under which those accused of offences, including illegal parking, can donate to charity to avoid a conviction has more than doubled in the last two years, according to figures from the Courts Service. This has been reported in the Irish Times newsaper.
Under a system that has evolved over many decades, a judge in the District Court may order a defendant to make a specific donation to the court poor box in lieu of conviction. The money is then given to a charity of the judge’s choice.
For the defendant the process avoids a conviction and a statutory fine which may result in difficulties with their insurance provider. Having availed of the court poor box the defendant emerges with a clean driving record.
In 2020, the Courts Service recorded 13 instances of the court poor box being availed of in parking cases, by a total of nine drivers. The numbers imply some drivers got the benefit of the poor-box system more than once. However, in 2021 the use of the court poor box more then doubled to 27 cases, involving 27 motorists.
The poor-box system has been criticised by road-safety groups, including the Road Safety Authority (RSA), which has particularly taken issue with its use in cases where a conviction would involve the imposition of penalty points.
In a judicial review hearing in February 2014, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan ruled that use of the poor box for penalty-point offences was specifically barred under the Road Traffic Act 2010.
Chairwoman of the RSA Liz O’Donnell has said the use of the poor box in such cases was “undermining” road-safety measures.
The removal of the poor-box system has also been recommended by the Law Reform Commission and the Department of Justice.