That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the imposition of terms of imprisonment on persons found guilty of ramming a Garda vehicle.
I appreciate the opportunity to seek leave to introduce the Bill, which is important. More needs to be done to protect members of An Garda Síochána in the line of duty. The statistics relating to the ramming of Garda vehicle are shocking. There were 244 such instances between 2010 and 2013, which equates to more than one a week. The problem is that ramming a Garda vehicle is not a criminal offence and the Bill aims to make ramming a vehicle deliberately a specific crime. I very much welcome the investment of €29 million in new Garda vehicles since 2012 and a further commitment to invest €46 million in same over the next five years. This will be a major step forward but the maximum protection the State can offer to gardaí in these vehicles would complement that investment. I also welcome the €1.75 million that was recently allocated for increased surveillance by the Garda air units, in particular. However, on the ground, many gardaí find that when they give chase to suspects, very often the suspects will not think twice about ramming their vehicle. Unfortunately, there have been cases in the past where gardaí have lost their lives or have been seriously injured in this manner. A deterrent is needed to prevent the ramming of their vehicles. My Bill proposes a custodial sentence of up to ten years for the deliberate ramming of a Garda car or a vehicle being operated by a garda in the course of his or her duties.
I hope the Bill will be taken seriously by the Minister for Justice and Equality and her Department. I hope it can be progressed or incorporated into future legislation in the interest of protecting members of the Garda. The figures for the ramming of Garda vehicles are shocking at more than one a week. That is not good enough and, as a society, we cannot tolerate this. The scumbags who perpetrate this on members of An Garda Síochána should be left in no doubt as to the seriousness of their actions and of the ramifications of such actions. The State needs to respond to this problem.
In the context of rural crime, if we are to give the Garda the best opportunity to target criminals, we need to balance the scales and give the force more of an opportunity to carry out its work in a safer manner. There is an opportunity to make it safer for gardaí by introducing this deterrent. I hope the Bill will be progressed urgently.