I wish to share my time with Deputies O'Shea and O'Sullivan.
Private Members' Business. - Road Traffic (Joyriding) Bill, 2000: Second Stage.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
The Road Traffic (Joyriding) Bill, 2000, provides for the offences of supplying or offering to supply a vehicle to an under age driver and of organising, directing or participation in the unlawful taking of a mechanically propelled vehicle for the purposes of dangerous driving in a public place, to extend the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1995, and to provide for related matters.
This Bill is an important element of a package of measures which the Labour Party believes must be implemented to address one of the most serious and dangerous crimes affecting modern Irish society, particularly the most deprived areas of our cities and towns. At a recent seminar organised by the Labour Party on joyriding and car related crime, the Labour Party leader, Deputy Quinn, rightly referred to the crimes of car theft and joyriding as an urban plague.
Throughout the past two decades this plague has terrorised residential estates, disrupted family life and placed the lives of citizens and our gardaí in continuous danger. Residents have grown to dread the screeching sound of cars being driven at speeds of up to 80 or 100 miles an hour and the terrifying spinning of cars in so-called "wheelies" on residential roads and open spaces in day light as well as during the night or early morning. The arrival of joyriding cars in estates is often accompanied by a cacophony of whistles to try to attract the audience of young people who, if they are allowed to come out to view the mayhem, are placed in great physical danger. Like many other urban public representatives, I have regular first hand experience of the joyriding phenomenon. I watched in shock and disbelief recently as a speeding car suddenly spun in circles a few metres from the rear of my vehicle as I visited an estate in my Dublin North-East constituency.
The most tragic aspect of joyriding and car crime in recent years has been the significant number of deaths and injuries of innocent pedestrians and car users. The first major effort to change the physical environment to deter car criminals on the north side of Dublin only took place when two children were knocked down six years ago in north Coolock and innocent passengers were killed on the Malahide and Raheny roads. There have also been several near misses recently in the Donaghmede Shopping Centre in my constituency. Similar tragedies have occurred on the south and west sides of Dublin and in Cork and Limerick cities.
I raised the issue of joyriding on an Adjournment debate this time last year following the appalling deaths of Mr. Derek Hall in Tallaght and Mr. Mark Bryan in Lucan. A Dublin hackney driver and father of four children, Mr. Hall died when a stolen car driven by three joyriding youths slammed into his Toyota cab. The well known and popular disc jockey, Mr. Mark Bryan from Dún Laoghaire, was killed when a 20 year old car thief who was out on bail drove up the wrong side of the Lucan bypass.
Six months later the cruel and dangerous nature of car crime was brought home to many community activists in Dublin and throughout Ireland and to many members of the Labour Party with the horrific deaths of Mr. Richard Greene and his daughter, Christine, as they went to work on an early autumn morning. Mr. Richard Greene was a founder of the Donnycarney Unemployment Action Group and was deeply involved for many years in the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed. He was a strong advocate of community action to improve the local economy and society and of major initiatives, such as the Northside Partnership, and he gave great encouragement to me and countless others who were involved in local development projects. Nothing can ease the grievous sense of futile loss felt by their family and the families and communities of tragic victims of joyriding crime. In tribute to their memory, the Government and the House should embark on a co-ordinated list of measures to remove the plague of this crime from our streets.
The reports of the Garda Commissioner show that almost 14,000 cars have been stolen nationally in each of the past two years. In recent weeks Dublin Corporation removed up to 166 burnt out and vandalised cars and South Dublin County Council had to deal with more than 250 destroyed vehicles littering the roads and public open spaces. Since last January the problem has been exacerbated with the introduction of the national car test for older cars. Rather than undergo the cost of necessary repairs and the NCT, some unscrupulous owners and dealers have off loaded their vehicles to children who have vandalised them or used them for joyriding. The motor industry must take some responsibility for the disposal of their products given the introduction of the NCT.
For many years the core of the joyriding problem in areas such as Dublin's north side has been the so-called company cars rather than stolen vehicles. Company cars are often clapped out old bangers and older vehicles which are sold to young people for as little as £15 or £20. They are then brought into residential estates where they are driven recklessly and burnt out. The Bill seeks to strengthen the hands of the gardaí, particularly in relation to discarded vehicles and company cars.
It is not a coincidence that car related crime is a major problem for the most disadvantaged areas in Ireland. It has been compared to drug related crime because of its malign influence on so many struggling communities in our cities and towns. Like drug related crime, car theft and joyriding are symptoms of alienation and despair among youths who have dropped out of the education system and have been poorly resourced in terms of youth, leisure and sporting facilities.
It is obvious that a large and growing minority of our people have been left behind at a time when the Celtic tiger is booming and economic growth is at 10%. The Government has paid lip service to their needs. When Government action was necessary, any measures taken were of a token nature, extremely tardy and disappointing to the communities concerned. I could cite many examples but I will mention just a few, such as the air of uncertainty left hanging over the partnership companies and their future role and funding after January 2000, the abrupt and careless manner in which the local employment service was treated for more than a year by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, the failure by the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, to allocate sufficient resources for local youth and sporting facilities and the ongoing refusal by the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, to fund child care.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has also failed our poorest communities. He came to power on a promise of zero tolerance and is now the longest serving Minister for Justice of the past decade. However, there is a strong perception in many urban and rural communities that he is presiding over a growing wave of youth lawlessness and criminal misbehaviour. The reports of the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Byrne, show decreases in reported crime levels in recent years but a recent survey revealed much larger levels of unreported crime, particularly harassment of families by gangs of deviant youths and terrorising of communities as a result of joyriding and car theft.
When preparing the Bill and submissions for the recent Labour Party seminar on joyriding, I was struck by reports I received from around the country about an upsurge in serious youth related crime. Yet the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform served for almost three years before he introduced the Children Bill, despite constant promptings in this House from my colleagues, particularly Deputies Howlin and Shortall. The failure to expedite the Children Bill has hampered the Garda and the courts in providing for the education and placement of young offenders. The Minister must take responsibility for placing our communities and gardaí in serious jeopardy by requiring them to repeatedly rearrest young offenders for joyriding because there are no treatment or custodial places for them. In one case a person was arrested 45 times. It is totally unacceptable that there are only 34 secure remand places for male juveniles in the State.
The Minister and his colleagues should have introduced a comprehensive programme of measures to control and end car related crime early on. Tonight is the 20th occasion I have raised the issue of joyriding in the 28th Dáil. I have also raised it in questions to the Taoiseach on the Order of Business, Adjournment debates, parliamentary questions, letters and brief conversations with the Minister and the Taoiseach. I have repeatedly asked for a multi-agency task force type response along the lines of the drug task forces established by my Labour colleagues and their Fine Gael allies in the last Government. I am strongly of the view that major resources to fund education, car and vehicle education, youth and community centre provision, local estate management and additional help for hard pressed gardaí in the worst affected areas are central to the control and resolution of this problem.
I am grateful for the support and foresight of Assistant Commissioner, Jim McHugh, and Superintendents Flynn and Long and to Inspector Seamus Kane for helping to establish the anti-joyriding task force on Dublin's north side. As a result of conversations with task force members and supporters, I undertook to examine how any gaps in the law could be remedied along the lines of the Control of Horses Act which dealt with the urban horse problem in 1996. That was the genesis of this Bill.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for two new driving offences, supplying or offering to supply a vehicle to an under age driver for use in a public place and organising, directing or participation in unlawfully taking a vehicle for the purposes of dangerous driving in a public place.
Section 1 proposes that a person who supplies or offers to supply a vehicle to an under-age driver where there is a reasonable apprehension that the vehicle will be used for joyriding shall be guilty of an offence. "Supply" will include the gift of a vehicle and its transfer by way of sale, hire, loan or otherwise and "under age driver" means a person under 16 years. In subsection (2)(b) the Bill lays down that it is immaterial whether the person who supplied or offered to supply the vehicle was the lawful owner or otherwise in lawful possession of it. Section 1, if enacted, will, therefore, end the menace of so-called "company cars" and place a grave responsibility on car owners and car dealers to ensure that their older vehicles are lawfully disposed of.
When drafting this Bill our Labour Party legal advisers and I carefully studied the 1961, 1968 and 1995 Road Traffic Acts in relation to the crime of taking a vehicle without authority. The 1968 Act provides, in section 65, that a person shall not use or take possession of a mechanically propelled vehicle or allow himself or herself to be carried in it without the consent of the owner or other lawful authority. The dangerous and deviant culture of joyriding has become primarily a feature of life, however, in the past 15 or 20 years and it was felt necessary to clearly define and prohibit it in law. Hence section 2 proposes that any person who organises, directs or participates in the taking of a mechanically propelled vehicle without the consent of the owner or other lawful authority for the purposes of that vehicle being driven in a dangerous manner in a public place shall be guilty of an offence.
Section 2(2) provides that where facts are proven against a person amounting to an offence under section 112 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, as amended by section 65 of the 1968 Act previously referred to, then that person shall be presumed to be guilty of an offence until the contrary is proved.
The Labour Party gave some considerable thought to whether we should use the term "joy riding" at all since many citizens and public representatives find the term offensive considering the amount of mayhem, suffering and death that have been caused by this criminal deviancy. Due to this many of us have, in the past, referred to this crime as death riding or grief riding. I remember campaigning on Dublin City Council to use the latter term. Since there is a long standing practice to refer to the crime in communities and in the media as joyriding we decided it would be clearer to use the traditional term as in the title of this Bill.
Section 3 prescribes severe penalties for offences under these proposals. A person guilty of an offence shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of up to £1,500 or to imprisonment for a term of up to 12 months or both. On conviction on indictment, an offender shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £25,000 or to imprisonment for up to seven years or both. We feel that these severe penalties would reflect the seriousness of car related crime which has often been deeply underestimated by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the media and by this House. Section 4 entitles the Bill as the Road Traffic (Joyriding) Act, 2000, and lays down that it may be cited and construed together with the Road Traffic Acts, 1961-1995, as the Road Traffic Acts, 1961-2000.
A major aspect of discussions on car crime at the recent Labour Party seminar was the disposal and scrappage of old and unwanted vehicles. Conor Faughnan of the Automobile Association made a valuable suggestion that there should be in effect a "death certificate" for cars for which the last legal owner would be liable. Other contributors felt that vehicles should not be allowed to be sold without a current car tax disc in use. These are proposals which are difficult to include in this Bill but to which the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, should give urgent attention. This is especially the case in the context, mentioned in today's newspaper, of an incredible 104,000 new cars bought in the first three months of this year and of Mr. Faughnan's estimate of at least 100,000 cars being scrapped, partly as a result, this year. This seems a low estimate following the dramatic drop in value of older cars since the introduction of the NCT. It is an important phenomenon that, on the introduction of the NCT, there has been an incredible drop in the value of cars over eight or nine years old. It is something to which we should give attention.
Once again our unfortunate Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, has been overtaken by events which he should have foreseen. It is clear that the Minister has the requisite powers to ensure that car manufacturers, distributors and owners properly scrap and dispose of their unwanted old vehicles. For that reason the Labour Party did not include a scrappage scheme in the Bill before us. It was the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin, in the Rainbow Coalition Government who introduced and had passed the Waste Management Act, 1996. Section 29 of that Act allows the Minister for the Environment to make regulations in relation to the recovery of any class of waste product. Subsection (4) of that section permits the Minister to require any producer, distributor, retailer or purchaser of any product or component for which there is no further use to collect, take back, or arrange the collection or taking back of the product or component or to arrange for its delivery to an authorised waste collector or another specified facility. This subsection also requires documents and records relating to waste recovery to be kept and for a plan to be made specifying the steps taken to recover all waste products. Is it not extraordinary that Minister for the Environment and Local Government has not made the slightest effort to bring section 29 of the 1996 Act into operation in relation to by far the largest and most difficult product, namely, cars?
Clearly there is a significant responsibility on the Society for the Irish Motor Industry and vehicle manufacturers and retailers generally to ensure the safe disposal and scrappage of their products. It is the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, as usual, who has failed to enforce a key element of his brief with regard to the motor industry. From tonight and in conjunction with this Labour Bill, I urge him, even belatedly, to take action.
In my letters to An Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern, and to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, on 3 February last, as Social and Community Affairs spokesperson of the Labour Party, I asked for an urgent multi-agency programme of measures to deter and end joyriding as well as for Government support for this Bill. I have always been fully aware that a legislative approach on its own would be of little use. I am, therefore, urging again that all possible assistance and resources be given to groups throughout the country like the Northside Anti-Joyriding Task Force, chaired by leading community activist, Mr. John Curry, PC, a long time friend and colleague of mine, and expertly facilitated by Inspector Seamus Kane and Sergeant Donal Waters of Coolock Garda.
I am aware that there are similar initiatives in Finglas, Blanchardstown, Clondalkin and Tallaght, on the northside of Cork city, in Limerick and in other urban areas. It is imperative that all key local agencies, including the local authority, the health board, partnership companies, FÁS and public representatives as well as the Garda and community leaders should be represented on these initiatives. Perhaps the Taoiseach would request the new city and county development boards to co-ordinate a multi-agency fight against joyriding crime.
Clearly there has always been an attraction to speed and fast vehicles among young men and women; youngsters who have dropped out of education and are perhaps also addicted to drink and drugs are particularly vulnerable in this regard. The Labour Party, therefore, believes the Government and the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Woods, must commit more resources to education in the affected areas to engender an attitude of responsibility and safety towards cars and other vehicles especially among pre-teenage children.
We were particularly impressed by accounts of the work of the youth service and teachers in Neilstown, Clondalkin, whose video and educational programme might be replicated around Dublin and Ireland. It is fair to say also that a number of young people who became involved in joyriding crime have a genuine interest in driving and car maintenance. One of the most notable contributions ot the Labour seminar came from Robert O'Connor, the project director of City Motor Sports, an initiative in education and car maintenance for youths who have been caught joyriding in Dublin's south inner city. A subsequent visit to the project by the Labour Party Leader, Deputy Quinn, and myself confirmed our very favourable impression of the work of Mr. O'Connor and his team. We believe that this programme should be better resourced and that there is scope for similar schemes in all the areas worst affected by car crime. Perhaps our colleagues in FÁS might take a lead role in this endeavour.
In many of our most deprived urban areas it is completely unacceptable that our youth service has to exist on a shoestring budget of finance and youth worker provision. In many of the same areas, for example, Priorswood Parish in the constituency of Dublin North-East, there is no dedicated youth services building after 30 years of the parish's existence. More exasperatingly, in a nearby northside parish, the youth service ceased to exist for nearly five months recently due to administrative bungling.
The Minister will no doubt refer to the 24 Garda youth diversion projects whose work has been welcome in areas worst affected by youth crime but this programme, from the Rainbow era, still receives minimal Government support. Clearly there is still a need for the urgent provision for a comprehensive national youth service with dedicated modern buildings.
The current debate about the proposal for a national sports stadium and campus, with which the Taoiseach is heavily identified, has highlighted the uses to which the estimated £270 million cost of this project could be deployed to local sports facilities and clubs. For many of these a changing room is still the side of a ditch and the renting of indoor training facilities is a constant financial drain. Yet the present Government, with a growing £6 billion surplus – is it £7 billion tonight? – seems content to let our young sportsmen and women continue to suffer. Last year, for example, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, gave funding to only 406 of the 1,900 local sports and leisure clubs which applied under the national lottery funded sports capital grants. The total Government expenditure nationally on these grants was a miserly £10 million or 0.2% of last year's massive budget surplus. This sum would perhaps just meet the needs of the gaelic, soccer, athletic, community and social clubs in Dublin North-East just one of our 42 constituencies. This shows the futility and arrogance of this Government towards the leisure needs of local communities, particularly those with serious youth alienation and crime problems.
The introduction of local authority estate management was a belated response to a campaign led by the Labour Party and its left wing colleagues. Welcome changes to the physical environment have been carried out to restrict and deter joyriding but much more needs to be done. The Dublin local authorities, for example, still do not accept that they have an absolute duty of care and security to tenants and their families whose lives are made a living hell by joyriding crime. This principle may be exercised by tenants groups in the courts.
When this mayhem erupts, often late at night or early in the morning, it is invariably the gardaí or community and public representatives who have to try to cope. While new local management and democratic structures are still in their infancy, responses to calls for environmental changes and maintenance of estates are still far too slow and erratic. In short, local government services need to take joyriding and the harassment of families seriously.
Throughout the north Dublin region and rural Ireland, communities are grateful to gardaí who have often, and almost on a daily and nightly basis, risked their lives and well-being to protect communities. For this wonderful service we are forever in their debt. I have long requested additional resources, particularly manpower, for the Garda Siochána in areas worst affected by joyriding. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform outlined that between 70 to 100 additional gardaí are needed to adequately police the J and R districts on the north side of Dublin where more than 100,000 people live. Similar demands could be made for other areas worst affected by youth and car crime.
The organisation of the Garda should reflect local, parish and administrative structures which they do not at present. This would ensure that areas with the worst problems have the correct number of staff. There should also be constant and close Garda liaison with local representative bodies. I am not aware if my proposal for a dedicated anti-joyriding specialist Garda team has been implemented but it should be a priority in the regions affected by car crime. The proposal for a freephone number for reporting joyriding should also be implemented.
Early action on the measures and proposals outlined would constitute some of the main elements of a comprehensive response to the terrifying, socially disruptive and deadly crime of joyriding and car theft. Such a response has never been more urgent. The Government can take the first step by accepting this Bill. Last November the Minister promised me that he would strongly consider allocating Government time to any remedial proposals the Labour Party brought forward to end the menace of car crime. The Minister will have his own ideas in terms of amending the brief proposals before the House but the central proposals of severe penalties for joyriding,per se, and outlawing of the transfer of company cars to youngsters will, I hope, receive his and the Government's support. Let us have no more victims of this unnecessary and horrific crime. I commend the Bill to the House.
I congratulate Deputy Broughan for introducing this Bill and on the great work on this issue. Anyone listening to his speech can tell that he has worked very hard with communities and the Garda Siochána. The least response he could receive from the House would be an acceptance of this Bill by the Government. I hope the Government will accept and implement the Bill as soon as possible. However, the Government should not just implement the contents of the Bill but the variety of other measures necessary if we are to get rid of the scourge of joyriding.
There is no joy in joyriding for the communities affected by it. Deputy Broughan outlined why we kept the word "joyriding" in the title of the Bill. It is a misnomer but that is how it is described in society. Joyriding is a most dangerous pursuit for those in the cars and for communities. We have all seen the tragedies which result and we have been affected by the tragedies suffered by communities around the country. There is a chilling and terrifying chasm between some of these young people and the communities around them. Anyone who has come across these young offenders will see that they do not connect with their communities or relate to the tragedy they are inflicting on others, including young children and the elderly. This is truly horrifying and something with which we must come to grips.
We have to support and fund any projects, ideas or activities proposed by communities to combat the threat of joyriding. This is one of the problems with this Government, despite the fact that there is so much money available. Grants are available but projects must fit the grant system rather than the grants fitting the projects. We must make the surplus money available to communities who are seeking support for projects. Some good work is being done as regards sports capital grants but many communities with excellent ideas do not qualify for them. One can obtain a grant for a new dressing room or such like, however, grants are not available for ongoing costs such as, for example, running a football club, boxing club, marching band, dance group or whatever in a deprived area. It is often impossible to keep such groups going and we need to ring fence funding.
There was an announcement today concerning the money raised from the taxation of 00 registered cars. Let us ring fence such a fund and place it at the disposal of communities which need and deserve such support. These communities are not lacking in ideas and we all know of projects crying out for funding.
There is a soccer academy in Southill, Limerick, which trains youngsters under a CE scheme. This academy is one point of connection with many young men who might otherwise be anti-social. These people have an interest in soccer and many of them have interests in other areas. These tenuous links must be nurtured and people working on them must receive the necessary funding. There is no point in allocation grants if people cannot get to them. We have to target grants and support projects in these communities.
We must also support estate management. Yesterday I attended the launch of a partnership approach to estate management in Limerick. One of the speakers made the point that there is a need for a bottom-up approach in that we must respond to what communities say they need rather than what local authorities, the Government or the Minister say they need. We must involve estate managers in putting forward proposals and in getting them funded. We need a caring and responsive approach to these people now rather than a response in one or two years. We must respond to what is happening. Many communities are suffering from terrifying activities.
There is a need to prioritise the targeting of resources towards families at risk. Organisations such as Barnardos are doing slow and painstaking work and they must be supported. Studying youngsters from the age of one to four years, one can predict the ones likely to end up joyriding. Early intervention is crucial for such youngsters.
With regard to the increased number of burnt out cars, I am a member of an environmental committee in my local authority where there was a 40% increase in the number of such cars taken in by the local authority between January to March 1999. Recycling companies will do this work, so it is a question of telling them where the cars are. The connection between garages and those who buy and sell cars must be apparent and people must be forced to ensure that cars are properly recycled rather than left for youngsters.
There is a very high level of anti-social behaviour and we must have the Garda resources to deal with this problem. Gardaí must take preventive action rather than arriving after the deed is done. We need imaginative responses from the Garda. They have to get out of their squad cars and walk around in these communities to deter the kind of activities we are debating.
We have to support communities living in fear. The Bill is only a part of that process but it is an important part as it will jolt us into realising the problem and dealing with it, not just in terms of the provisions of the Bill, but in terms of the wider social responses needed. The Minister must fund the projects that have identified the problems and possible solutions to them.
Gabhaim comhghairdeas le mo chomhtheachta den Pháirtí Lucht Oibre, an Teachta Broughan, as ucht an Bhille thábhachtach seo, an Bill um Thrácht ar Bhóithre (Spraoithiomáint), 2000, a chur os comhair na Dála. I congratulate Deputy Broughan for bringing this important Bill before the House.
The first time I attended the Oireachtas as a Member was in early 1987 when I was elected to the Seanad. The first meeting took place on a Saturday. I left at 11 p.m. to return home. As I was driving along the canal in the direction of the Naas Road, I realised that a car approaching me was on the wrong side of the road. I pulled over and it passed. In my mirror I saw it perform a hand brake turn behind me. It then approached the junction at high speed. The driver was not bothered if the light was green or otherwise. The car turned onto the Naas Road and when I arrived it was doing hand brake turns on that road before leaving. That was my first experience of joyriding.
The importance of this Bill was demonstrated to me during the local elections last year when I was canvassing with a colleague on a large housing estate. Adjacent to the estate was a green area belonging to the local authority. A car containing two youths appeared. It had no registration plates and was missing at least one window. The person to whom I was speaking told me that youths would buy cars for £10, drive around the green area and then burn them when they were finished. I telephoned the gardaí and told the officer who answered the telephone what was happening. He told me that they were not in contravention of the Road Traffic Acts, although the gardaí did come swiftly and chased the two youths involved. That green area could have been used by children or senior citizens.
It is not good enough that this can happen. It is only by accepting the Bill proposed by Deputy Broughan that we can deal with these issues. It would prevent unscrupulous people from selling cars to young people, particularly those under age, and to make it a crime to steal a car to joyride or drive at high speed. I hope the Government will not oppose the Bill and, instead, promise to introduce its own Bill at some time in the future. The Bill should be accepted and the necessary amendments made on Committee Stage.
The Government should accept the Bill and facilitate its quick passage because the number of vehicles being abandoned or left in garages as result of the national car test is growing all the time. Deputy Broughan suggested that the motor industry, which is making huge profits at present, should invest money so cars can be scrapped in an environmentally friendly way. There is no doubt that the number of burnt out wrecks is increasing.
This phenomenon demonstrates the underlying problems in law enforcement. There is a high level of unreported crime. I come from the area of the State with the highest crime detection rate, Waterford-Kilkenny, and while that is welcome crime prevention is more important. It requires resources. We must intervene early to prevent young people from becoming disaffected and involved in anti-social behaviour. Co-ordination of services is vital. There is a lack of infrastructure in alternative activities for young people in disadvantaged areas which might prevent alcohol or drug abuse.
Economic success has passed many people by. The record of the Minister leaves much to be desired. Since April 1998 there have been 15 gangland killings, including one close to where I live. In that case the remains of the person have not been retrieved. No one has been charged with murder in any of the cases. There are common threads running through them all, they are drug related and were carried out by gangs, but no progress is being made.
There is a viciousness in attacks now. Over the weekend a Welsh visitor was badly injured in Roscrea, there was a murder in Ennis and there was a serious assault in Portlaw where people were celebrating a lottery win. In Tramore recently a petrol pump attendant was badly beaten and it would appear that his assailants, who robbed the petrol station, were contemplating dragging him behind their car had a rope been available. We are not getting to grips with these crimes.
People who are being intimidated and harassed come to us for help but they are afraid to give evidence in case of reprisals. The attitude of the Minister to crime prevention and detection is defective. It is far from the confidence we saw when he was in Opposition. Then he was going to change things in a very short time. I ask the Minister of State to accept this small but important Bill that deals with this dangerous anti-social activity.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Pat Carey.
That is agreed.
I thank the Deputy Broughan for introducing the Bill. Joyriding is an anti-social behaviour perpetrated primarily by a small minority of young people, many of whom are victims of social disadvantage. However, social and economic disadvantage is not an excuse for this type of dangerous behaviour which, in some cases, leads to tragedy. We need a range of effective policies and measures to tackle it.
I am aware the Deputy has a particular concern about joyriding in his constituency and raised this matter in the House on previous occasions. I am also aware that a new dimension to joyriding may have developed recently whereby young persons are no longer taking vehicles without the owner's consent but are sometimes purchasing quite old cars for small sums of money. These cars can sometimes be driven dangerously or used in the commission of crime.
Tackling joyriding behaviour requires a multi-agency approach. My colleague, Deputy Carey, will outline the strong measures taken by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to tackle this issue.
Regardless of whether the vehicle has been taken without the owner's consent or has been purchased from another person, the subsequent use of that vehicle to drive recklessly, often through housing estates, creates a serious danger to other road users, pedestrians and, in many cases, the young drivers themselves as well as the occupants of the vehicle.
Apart from the issue of anti-social behaviour, joyriding poses manifest dangers in a road safety context. Human action is a contributory factor in more than 90% of road accidents. The principal emphasis of all road safety strategies is on improving road user behaviour. This behaviour must involve consideration for others to reduce risk.
The Government's road safety strategy sets out to make a measurable impact on road deaths and injuries in Ireland over its five year term. The strategy's primary target is to achieve at least a 20% reduction in deaths and serious injuries by 2002 relative to 1997. This target will be achieved through a concerted effort in the three key areas of speeding, alcohol use and seat belt wearing and the implementation of a range of measures designed to improve human behaviour and to make our vehicles and roads safer.
Since the introduction of the Government's road safety strategy, substantial improvements have been made in terms of accident reduction, given that 3% fewer people died on the roads in 1998 than in 1997 and 12% fewer people were seriously injured in 1998 than in 1997. That represents the lowest number of serious injuries for the last decade and constitutes significant progress towards the five year target in the Government strategy.
More recent data from the Garda Síochána indicate there were 413 road deaths in 1999 compared with 458 in 1998. That represents a reduction of 13% in road deaths relative to 1997 in the second full year of operation of the strategy. There has also been substantial progress in the implementation of the measures set out in the strategy designed to help achieve the main targets of reducing road deaths and serious injuries.
In countering the speed factor in road accidents, the use of automatic mobile speed detection systems has been extended and the Garda is currently finalising arrangements for the operation of fixed speed detection cameras on routes north and west out of Dublin, including the M50.
In the continued implementation of Operation Lifesaver, significant increases in the detection of offences have been made. The Garda issued more than 175,000 on the spot fine notices for speeding in 1999 compared to 130,000 in 1998 and 71,000 in 1997. Increased enforcement of drink driving laws is evidenced in the 19% increase in 1998 over 1997 of samples certified by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety in relation to drink driving offences. There was a further increase of 8% in 1999 compared to 1998.
As a key measure in combating the alcohol factor in road accidents, the operation of evidential breath testing commenced at the end of 1999 in four Garda stations – Pearse Street, Dún Laoghaire, Tallaght in Dublin and Castlebar in County Mayo. The system is scheduled to be introduced to at least 20 more Garda stations nationwide in the coming 12 to 18 months. The selection of those Garda stations is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner.
The use of evidential breath testing has been proven in many other jurisdictions to have a positive impact on driver behaviour. It means that drivers may be required to undergo a breath test in a Garda station instead of a blood or urine test following arrest for drink driving. The breath test ing apparatus, which will be subject to quality controls operated by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, will automatically record the driver's alcohol level without the need for any further medical or analytical process.
Early in 1999 the Minister made regulations to extend the on the spot fines system to non-wearing of seat belts and a range of other road safety related offences. More than 25,000 seat belt notices were issued by the Garda between August and December 1999.
The National Roads Authority completed specific accident reduction measures at 193 known accident locations on the national network in 1998 and 1999 and a further 100 are scheduled for 2000. The Government has provided £0.5 million in the non-national road grant allocations for 2000 to fund a similar programme of accident counter-measures on non-national roads.
The heads of a new Road Traffic Bill are being prepared in my Department to provide a legislative base for the system. This will be brought before the Government as quickly as possible with a view to the earliest possible publication of the Bill.
The Bill's approach in tackling the problem with joyriding is interesting. However, the Bill's approach is not technically feasible for a number of reasons. With regard to the prohibition on the supply of vehicles to under age drivers, the existing Road Traffic Acts focus primarily on the use of vehicles in public places. They do not address the question of supply which may be more appropriate for inclusion in legislation relating to the supply of goods.
Section 2 effectively tries to create a new offence of joyriding, that is, directing, organising or participating in the unauthorised taking of a vehicle for the purpose of dangerous driving. The practical enforcement of this section in the courts would be extremely difficult. It would be necessary to prove that a person who organised, directed or participated in the taking of a mechanically propelled vehicle did so for the purpose of that vehicle being driven in a dangerous manner. This provision, while well intended, would be unworkable in practice.
The term "joyriding" does not feature in existing legislation and it is a phrase which should be avoided, given the suffering and loss that is associated with the practice. However, the component elements of what is commonly termed joyriding are already extensively provided for under existing road traffic legislation.
The unauthorised taking of a mechanically propelled vehicle without the owner's consent is already an offence under section 112 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961. That section provides:
(a)A person shall not use or take possession of a mechanically propelled vehicle without the consent of the owner thereof or other lawful authority.
(b)Where possession of a vehicle has been taken in contravention of this subsection, a person who knows of the taking shall not allow himself to be carried in or on it without the consent of the owner thereof or other lawful authority.
A summary conviction under this Act carried a fine of up to £1,000 or, at the discretion of the court, imprisonment for up to 12 months or both a fine and imprisonment. A conviction under this section also leads to the application of a consequential disqualification order. In addition, a conviction on indictment carries a fine of up to £2,000 or, at the discretion of the court, imprisonment for up to five years or both.
The offence of dangerous driving is provided for in section 53 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, as amended. A member of the Garda Síochána who suspects someone of dangerous driving can arrest that person without warrant. There are harsh penalties for anyone convicted of dangerous driving. A person convicted of dangerous driving causing death or serious bodily harm can be liable for penal servitude of up to five years or, at the discretion of the court, a fine of up to £3,000 or both. In any other case, a fine of up to £1,000 can be imposed or, at the discretion of the court, imprisonment for up to six months or both. A conviction under this section also leads to the application of a consequential disqualification order.
The 1995 Road Traffic Regulations made under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act, 1994 give the Garda Síochána the power to detain and impound a vehicle where the vehicle is being driven by an under age driver and/or the driver has no motor insurance cover. Young people who participate in joyriding are often in the under 16 age group. Anyone under the age of 16 is prohibited from holding a driving licence under section 31 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961. A person cannot drive without a licence. Driving without a licence is an offence under section 38 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961 and conviction carries the penalty of a fine of up to £1,000 or, at the discretion of the court, imprisonment of up to six months or both.
A person who has taken a vehicle without the owner's consent or has purchased a very old vehicle for a small sum is unlikely to have the required motor insurance. It is an offence to drive a vehicle in a public place without motor insurance under section 56 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961. Conviction carries a fine of up to £1,000 or, at the discretion of the court, imprisonment for up to six months or both.
As the House will appreciate, there is already extensive and comprehensive legislation to deal with the component elements that constitute joyriding along with provisions to cover other offences such as driving without a licence or insurance. The Garda Síochána have indicated that these provisions are adequate in dealing with these issues. The question of enforcement is one for the Garda Síochana.
While the general purpose of the Bill in trying to tackle the issue of joyriding by under age driv ers is commendable, I regret it is not capable of being amended at this stage to produce satisfactory legislation, therefore, I must oppose it.
I welcome the opportunity to speak to Deputy Broughan's Bill and compliment him on introducing it. I am aware of his interest in this matter which he has displayed in many fora for a long time. He and I are both members of Dublin Corporation. We share membership of the board of Round Limited, the company which administers funds in north Dublin through the urban programme. I have heard him speak on many occasions about this issue. He represents a constituency which is similar to mine and I certainly understand the sentiments of the Bill and share many of the concerns he has articulated.
There is plenty of evidence that the Government takes youth crime seriously and it has put in place a comprehensive range of measures to address the issue. As everyone in the House will be aware, the level of resources the Government has made available for youth facilities and services in Dublin is proof of its determination to tackle the root causes of social deprivation and youth crime. In the longer term, the Children Bill, 1999, provides for the development of a new juvenile justice system and contains many innovative measures for dealing with young offenders. The Bill merits a great deal of consideration and the focus on preventative measures and support structures for young people in trouble and for their families is to be welcomed. I welcome the Minister's announcement of resources to ensure the proper implementation of all aspects of the Bill.
In the period 1999 to 2001, the Exchequer will contribute £34.8 million towards the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund, which was set up in 1998 by the Government. These funds are channelled through a number of Government Departments. In addition, the corporate sector will make a significant contribution to the fund. This fund develops youth facilities, including sport and recreational facilities and services in disadvantaged areas. In April, 1999, the Government allocated more than £25 million of the total amount to support 295 facilities and services projects in 13 local drugs task force areas. More than 60 youth workers, Outreach and sport workers are employed on the ground providing a wide variety of developmental activities and educational programmes for young people at risk in these task force areas. It is only now a variety of these projects are coming to fruition. The Darndale village project in Deputy Broughan's constituency took a long time. Its slow development is no credit to anyone. However, it is happening and it will be good for the general Darndale/Priorswood area.
In the Dublin north east task force area 27 projects are under way. Funding amounting to £1.735 million has been approved in principle for this area for a range of facilities, services and grants. More than £800,000 has been earmarked for the construction and renovation of local youth and community facilities. I take on board Deputy Broughan's criticism on the tardy response of the youth services board in responding to the demands of that area. We will learn and, as a member of the board, I want to contribute as best I can to ensure Darndale, Bonnybrook, Finglas and elsewhere get the services they deserve. Just over £100,000 has been set aside to support locally-based sport and youth groups with equipment and basic programme costs to provide activities and programmes for the target group of persons at risk. I concur with Deputy O'Sullivan's remarks about the soccer academy. There is intervention similar to this in my area and I admire greatly people who run the football club from the boot of their car, sell lottery tickets in the local pubs and do their best to keep the cost of running programmes to a minimum. I have said to the Minister and to others that I am very critical of the way these groups do not benefit in the way they should from the significant funding which is available. Deputy Broughan will recall a meeting of the urban board recently and the laughable situation where money had to be returned to the fund because it could not be spent under the various local development headings. This would have been imminently suitable as a means of funding local groups. Grants of more than £40,000 have been approved in the north east task force area towards the cost of equipment for local youth clubs, sports clubs and women's groups.
The Department of Education and Science also provides further resources in the Dublin area. It provides financial assistance through the Dublin Youth Service Board for projects such as the Ballymun Youth Action Project, Finglas Youth Development Project, Ballymun Youth Provision, Bonnybrook Youth Project, Donnycarney Youth Project and Priorswood Youth Service. The locally-based youth projects in disadvantaged areas are beginning to have an effect. It is only now they have a guarantee of funding. Up until recently, each project got year-on-year funding and never knew until it was almost too late whether the project would be rolled over. One could not expect project staff to have a great commitment to projects which were on such a short-term contract. This has been remedied and, barring accident, there should be a significant improvement in the projects' development. The City of Dublin Youth Service Board receives an annual grant of in excess of £647,000 to operate a local youth grant scheme in its region and a further £26,555 per annum towards the cost of Foroige's North Dublin youth development officer.
Since coming to office the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has given a high priority to the diversion of young people who are at risk of becoming involved in crimes such as joyriding and has invested considerable resources in a network of Garda special projects. I recommend them as extremely significant initiatives in the whole youth work area. During the lifetime of the Government the number of Garda special projects has risen from 12 to 29 and there are a number of proposals for other projects before his Department. The projects are tangible crime prevention measures and are run in conjunction with youth organisations. On the question of putting the crime diversion projects on a statutory footing, it should be borne in mind that they are essentially youth interventions. I would be worried that some of the trappings of a statutory service might accrue to some of those projects. Those to which I have referred operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, and there is no weekend service.
The Garda also operates such initiatives as the Garda schools programme and the juvenile diversion programme. Many gardaí are involved in ongoing initiatives to ensure youths in the region get the opportunity to pursue activities which divert them from activities associated with crime and drugs. I pay tribute to our chief superintendent, John McLoughlin, based in Blanchardstown, who spent many years in the core youth club in Crumlin. He still has a great commitment to youth work and if he had his way he would have every Garda doing youth work. There is much to be said for that.
I am aware of the damage, both mental and physical, that joyriding inflicts on community life. Many Members will be aware that my constituency is notorious in that regard. On St. Patrick's Day this year, as on St. Patrick's Day for the past number of years, there was a significant outbreak of anti-social joyriding company car related activity. On St. Patrick's Day this year over 100 youngsters put every Garda in the Finglas, Blanchardstown and Cabra areas to the pin of their collars by driving a number of cars around the fields and streets of the area and eventually burning them. That was not the end of it. With another public representative, I was called out on Saturday afternoon to look at the scene of depredation caused by a gang of 40 youths who got drunk at about 4 p.m. on Friday last. They stole two cars and had another company car. They rammed the gates of a small neighbourhood park, mowed down the trees which had been planted by Dublin Corporation about ten days previously and burned the three cars adjacent to houses. People telephoned me to say they could not get to bed, not to mention sleep, until 5 a.m. on Saturday. Women and men were traumatised and cried as a result of that vicious thuggery. I hope the juvenile justice aspects of the Children Bill can address that issue. The result of all this is the diversion of a huge amount of resources that could be used elsewhere, in cleaning up after them. I pay credit to Paul Rainsford, head of the abandoned vehicles section of Dublin Corporation and his staff, Dave Kenny, the regional manager in Finglas, Inspector Mal Geraghty of the Garda Síochána and his team, who were out in the fields at 6 a.m. on Monday pulling cars out of ditches, putting them on to lorries and taking them away and trenching fields so that they would not be used as a scrambling track by youngsters. Most of those fields are in the administrative area of Fingal County Council. There is a need for more co-operation between adjacent local authorities. This morning on my way to a meeting of the local drugs task force I drove by another stolen car overturned in my constituency.
I understand that the number of offences involving under 18 year olds has increased from 1,210 in 1996 to 1,362 in 1998 and that these figures include unauthorised taking, being a passenger in a stolen vehicle and interference with vehicles.
The Garda Síochána say that where necessary, special uniformed foot and mobile patrols have been implemented to address the issue of anti-social behaviour by youths and so-called joyriding. Deputy Shortall and I are members of a crime task force in Finglas working closely with the Garda and the officials of Dublin Corporation. That is beginning to have an effect. Issues that need to be addressed include better co-operation between the Garda and local authorities and a more flexible approach to dealing with abandoned and burned out cars at weekends. Last weekend we were unable to get anybody to take away the burned out cars referred to earlier.
There has been an upsurge in the sale of cars to youngsters since January. I call on the Society of the Irish Motor Industry and the garages to ensure the end of life form is filled in when disposing of a car. Some time ago a car was traded in to a reputable garage in the city. A car dismantler bought the car, towed it out to a dismantler's yard where it was sold off for about £50 to a group of youngsters in my constituency, driven around and eventually burned. That incident is replicated over and over again and that practice must stop. I appeal to the SIMI to do something about it.
It is important to deal with car dismantlers. Hammond Lane Metal Company Limited, Pigeon House Road, Dublin, provides an excellent service. Anybody who wants to dispose of an old car can drive it there and it will be taken in. Dublin Corporation also take away old cars. Unfortunately, not every dismantler operates as professionally as Hammond Lane. There are many roadside car dismantling operations along the north fringe of the city. Something must be put in place to ensure these cars are recycled more quickly by the manufacturers.
A special resource unit comprising one sergeant and eight gardaí was established to specifically target incidents of joyriding in west Tallaght. In Finglas, the Fan project has been very effective. We must convince those disposing of cars that they have a responsibility to dispose of them in a proper fashion. It cannot be right to leave one's car at the side of the road in the hope that somebody surreptitiously arrives and takes it away or offers one £25 for it and it ends up being burned in a field.
I commend Deputy Broughan for introducing the Bill. It will provoke a good debate. I ask the Minister to look at section 54 of the Children Bill which states:
Where a child under the age of 14 years is responsible for an act or omission which, but forsection 52, would constitute an offence, any person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the child in or in relation to that act or omission shall be guilty of that offence and be liable to be indicted, tried and punished as a principal offender.
Could that section be used to prosecute the youngsters who drive uninsured, unlicensed and untaxed cars?
With the permission of the House, I will share my time with Deputy Coveney.
I have considerable respect for Deputy Carey and for the Minister of State, Deputy Wallace but having listened to their depressing contributions, I come to the conclusion that the Government has no strategy to deal with the problem of joyriding in urban areas. It did not address the kernel of the issue in Deputy Broughan's Bill. I congratulate Deputy Broughan. The Fine Gael party supports the Bill and will vote in favour of it tomorrow evening.
The Minister of State argued that the prohibition of supply would be difficult to implement. He said the Bill does not address the question of supply which may be more appropriate for inclusion in legislation relating to the supply of goods. There are other examples of the restriction of supply. If the Minister of State feels legislation to restrict supply is necessary, let him bring it forward. The Minister of State's second argument against Deputy Broughan's Bill is that it would be necessary to prove that a person who organised, directed or participated in taking a mechanically propelled vehicle did so for the purpose of that vehicle being driven in a dangerous manner. We already have bail legislation which makes a presumption that future behaviour will follow the pattern of previous behaviour. Bail can be refused to people who have previous convictions.
Fine Gael welcomes the Bill which proposes stringent new powers to deal with the problem of joyriding which is now a cause of considerable distress to communities in urban Ireland. At the very least, the Government should accept this Bill on Second Stage and refer the matter to the Select Committee on the Environment and Local Government.
The Bill is important in three respects. First, the introduction of this legislation will send out a positive signal to working class communities that Dáil Éireann is concerned about the upsurge of the problems of anti-social activity and joyriding, particularly in recent years. It is not acceptable that a large percentage of residents can be terrorised in their homes by this problem. The current law surrounding driving offences is unable to deal with the scale of the problem which is regularly inflicted on communities from joyriding. In accepting the Bill, the Government can show a commitment to and an interest in some of the most marginalised communities in the country. Too many people in working class housing estates have become disillusioned and disinterested in politics. Acceptance of this Bill can help them to see the importance of politics and the relevance of parliament to their lives.
Second, the Bill will help the current discussion on road safety. I find it difficult to understand why the Government has not responded to the current upsurge in joyriding. The Road to Safety strategy document announced by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government in 1998 does not refer to the issue. This Bill is a logical amendment to the Road to Safety strategy document which was outlined in 1998.
Third, the Bill proposes to put into law a new range of driving offences in connection with supplying or offering vehicles to under age drivers. The Bill recognises that there are malevolent individuals and groups who are systematically selling cars to minors for as little as £10 or £20 per vehicle. This group of criminals knowingly sells vehicles to minors and it is clear that they are virtually untouchable under existing law.
I challenge the notion that there is an inevitable link between living in a local authority housing estate and anti-social activity. There is no such inevitability, despite the very negative reporting on working class estates by some of our media. The vast majority of people in areas of disadvantage do not allow their children to become engaged in what is euphemistically called joyriding; they are frightened to go to bed every evening because of the scourge of stolen cars racing down their roads at unimaginable speeds; they have to put up with an environment where every day burnt out cars and other vehicles are left strewn on public open spaces; they have known children and adults who have become hospitalised or worse as a result of the scourge of joyriding. This is the reality for the vast majority of people who live in some our local authority estates.
We have an obligation to intervene in an effort to improve the quality of life for people who are suffering from this nightmare. There is a widespread acceptance that the current law is not working. It is crucial that we redefine responsibility in relation to those who are supplying or offering vehicles to under age drivers. It is equally important that the various local agencies who have part responsibility for this problem begin to work in a co-ordinated way to help us stamp it out. Relevant local authorities, the Garda Síochána, residents' associations, health boards and the education authorities need to come together to draw up local strategies so that the demand side of this equation is reduced. In South Dublin the local authority has invited all interested parties in the area to draw up a local intervention plan. There is a need to develop diversion programmes for young people who engage in joy riding and to provide facilities for communities which have been ravaged by the problems of drugs and crime, but there is also a need for those who are charged with the responsibility of policing such communities to redirect their resources and energies so that offenders are apprehended. The problem of joyriding can only be solved where there is a systematic police campaign involving special patrols of the areas worst affected by the problem. I hope the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform takes the opportunity in his contribution to this debate tomorrow evening to inform the House of specific measures which the Garda Síochána is proposing to take to combat joyriding. I will be particularly interested to know from the Minister the success rate of plans implemented by the Garda in 1998 to reverse the rise in unauthorised taking of vehicles.
I strongly support the proposal from some speakers that the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Social Exclusion and Drugs look at this area and draw up a plan to deal with the problem. It can be dealt with in the way we dealt with the problem of wandering horses in local authority housing estates. If we apply our minds to the problem it can be solved, once and for all. We should abandon our fatalistic approach to problems like this.
Garda stations which have a high rate of reports of joyriding should receive the support required to combat the problem. There is an unfortunate perception that because joyriding is contained within certain housing estates the authorities frequently turn a blind eye to calls for help from such areas. This is the perception and all of us have a responsibility to change that perception by introducing new measures which tackle the joyriding problem head on. This Bill is one of those measures.
The introduction of the new car test has provided an unprecedented number of vehicles in which children can joyride. Every day in my constituency I count at least 10 or 15 burnt out cars, left on the side of the road or on a public open space. I have been reliably informed that some people are, for a tiny cost, selling cars which are later found in a burnt out condition. A solution to the problem requires a carrot and stick approach. This Bill is a welcome stick. I congratulate its proposers, particularly Deputy Broughan, and I urge the Government to think again before tomorrow evening so that a positive signal can be sent to these communities. The Government, by voting down this measure will send out all the wrong signals to the communities worst affected by the scourge of joyriding.
I congratulate the Labour Party and particularly Deputy Broughan, for bringing this Bill before the House. Joyriding is something that every Member of the House wishes to see dealt with in a comprehensive manner through whatever legislation is required. It is unusual that a Bill is brought before the House which deals so specifically with one area but the serious problem and dangers of joyriding justifies our full and immediate attention. As Deputy Hayes said, it is vitally important that a positive message is sent tomorrow night to inner city areas that the problem of joyriding is being taken seriously.
The Bill is short, specific and straightforward. The explanatory memorandum is only one page long. The purpose of the Bill is to create two new driving offences, the first of which is the supply of vehicles to under age drivers for use in a public place. In other words, it seeks to cut off the supply of old cars to young potential joyriders. The same philosopy was followed in a recent Fine Gael Private Members' motion on cigarettes, which was accepted, aimed at cutting off the supply of cigarettes to persons under the age of 18 years by imposing severe penalties on suppliers.
While this measure would help to prevent joyriding by making it more difficult to acquire cars, it would be far from being a cure or from being the total solution needed. The Labour Party would not suggest that it is either of these. Let us not fool ourselves about that but if it would help to reduce the incidence of joyriding it is worthy of serious consideration and acceptance.
The second offence provided for in the Bill is organising, directing and participation in unlawfully taking a car for the purposes of dangerous driving in a public place. The Bill seeks to outlaw joyriding directly and put in place a law to deal with ringleaders under which a severe fine or prison term or both would be imposed on offenders. It would therefore act as a deterrent to potential joyriders and repeat offenders and inflict punishment on those who offend. These severe measures are worthy of serious consideration if they would help to reduce the numbers participating in joyriding.
The Bill is welcome in that it places the issue of joyriding centre stage. To deal comprehensively with what is largely an inner city problem, much more needs to be done. Deputy Broughan is not claiming to have the complete solution. The effects of joyriding on a community can vary. Normally a neighbourhood, park or housing estate is terrorised. Residents are literally imprisoned in their homes, afraid to come out as teenagers race around out of control in old cars, making an unmerciful noise, often in the early hours of the morning, with the revving of engines and the screeching of rubber on the road surface.
The devastation that joyriding can cause is only fully realised when there is loss of life. In Cork, north and south of the River Lee, we have had the bitter taste of tragedy that joyriding can inflict. In 1998 two young men, Christopher Kearney and Ian Ward, died when their stolen car went out of control and hit a pole. In March 1999 Trevor O'Connell and Stephen Kirby were hit by a stolen car and killed. The city came to a standstill in grief with their families. I can remember it clearly. If that was not enough in May 1999 Mrs. Atkins, a married mother of three, was knocked down and killed by the driver of a stolen car which mounted the pavement as she walked home from a party with her husband.
In 1998 more than 900 cars were stolen in the greater Cork area, many by teenagers. The figure for Dublin is 7,000 annually. In the past three years there have been eight deaths in Cork alone as a direct result of joyriding. Dublin and Limerick have had more than their fair share of tragedy. A car or vehicle in the hands of someone who cannot control it or who is out of control, as is often the case, is a lethal weapon.
When I think of joyriding and try to find ways of eradicating this behaviour, I clearly remember listening to a 16 year old being interviewed on the subject of car stealing and joyriding following the third tragic death in Cork to which I referred. When asked why he did it he described it as a drug, something to which he had become addicted – the excitement, speed, peer pressure and, most of all, the dare. In many instances these feelings are intensified by the use of recreational drugs and alcohol. In cutting off easy access to cars or increasing the penalties for joyriding we would not solve the problem but we may reduce it. That is where we must start.
In examining and eliminating the causes of joyriding, what is required is a multi-agency, multi-departmental approach. Young teenagers must be provided with stimulation and challenges to ensure their energy is channelled positively. It is no coincidence that inner city areas which are underprovided for in terms of recreational facilities and other resources are black spot areas. It is no coincidence either that many of the other anti-social behavioural problems with which we are trying to deal, not least drug abuse, are hugely prevalent in these areas.
One in five children leave school at the age of 15 or 16 years on completion of the junior certificate. The education system has failed these young people. Education is the key to early intervention for young people with the potential to engage in anti-social behaviour. There is a clear link between early school-leavers and those who fall by the wayside. The gap between the wealthy and the well educated and the poor is widening, a matter which the Department of Education and Science must address.
The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform must play its part by dealing with juvenile crime comprehensively. The advances made in the Children Bill are welcome. The alternatives to imprisonment are long overdue, particularly for juveniles. The Department of Sport, Tourism and Recreation must provide facilities. It is not enough to provide green areas in the middle of housing estates, they must be developed. The Department of Health and Children must play its part in eradicating the problem by addressing the problems of drug and alcohol abuse and examining the reasons for bad behaviour, which are sometimes medical and passed on from parents to children.
We have a responsibility to communities which are being terrorised by groups of young people involved in joyriding. While we must adopt a hardline approach and punish the ringleaders, we must also try to lead potential joyriders away from a life of crime and misery. The Government should reconsider how it will vote tomorrow night. It is vitally important that those who are affected by the scourge of joyriding believe we are trying to do something positive for them. I urge the Minister to accept the two positive measures provided for in this small Bill.