I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I think we can all agree that in recent years the use of quad bikes and scramblers has become not just a nuisance but also a real danger to ordinary people who use public spaces such as parks and even when just walking through their own housing estates. Without exaggeration, it is a major problem that is particularly prevalent in urban areas and one about which I hear increasingly when I meet people from my constituency and elsewhere and the Garda seems to be powerless to stop it. At safety forum and joint policing committee meetings and community events, with residents, I have repeatedly raised the issue. People have a real fear in taking their children to the park to play ball, walking their dog or even just going to the local shop because of the activities engaged in by those who use quad bikes and scramblers. We have just had one of the hottest summers on record when people took advantage of the good weather, as did those who own quad bikes and scramblers. How can any family with children relax when there is the real possibility and fear of being injured by such vehicles? Quad bikes and scramblers have caused a number of fatalities and serious injuries. The most recent and shocking example was when Ilabek Avetian received serious head injuries in Darndale Park when a scrambler landed on him while he was sunbathing. This innocent man is now in a vegetative state in hospital. His wife, Anzhela, was also injured in the incident when she suffered a broken pelvis. Her life has been turned upside down and she is facing the real prospect of being made homeless while caring for her seriously injured husband because she has no income to pay the rent or on which even to live.
Communities believe they are effectively being terrorised by those who use quad bikes and scramblers in public places, especially local parks. Such vehicles are repeatedly being used by some to damage property and football pitches and even to threaten people, while also engaging in other anti-social activity. It is every parent's nightmare that the next casualty will be their child run down while playing in a public space. Families and communities should be able to enjoy a public amenity during the week or at the weekend without having to fear for their safety. It is hard to believe I have been raising this issue since I was a Dublin City councillor years ago. It is disheartening to think the problems and issues have multiplied.
Shockingly, quad bikes and scramblers are readily available and cheap to buy. A casual search on DoneDeal.ie today showed that a person could buy a quad bike for as little as €180 and a scrambler for as little as €200. One can even buy a child's mini scrambler for €300 or less. Who would buy a child such a bike that could pose a danger, not only to the child but also to the general public? With Christmas around the corner, I appeal to parents not to buy mini bikes, quad bikes or scramblers for their children.
The Road Traffic Act 2004 makes it an offence to supply a mechanically propelled vehicle to a person under 16 years of age, including as a loan or a gift. That does not seem to deter many people as I have seen myself that many of those who are riding such vehicles around parks and estates can be as young as six or seven years of age. Last year, Deputy Imelda Munster, Sinn Féin spokesperson for transport, and I submitted a Bill to amend the Road Traffic Act 1994, which would allow gardaí to deal effectively with quad and scrambler users who continue to flout the rules of the road and who do not have a licence, insurance or the vehicle registered in any way.
Currently the law prohibits the use of these vehicles on public roads unless fully insured and taxed. However, there is a clear gap in the legislation allowing people who use these vehicles for anti-social behaviour to get around the limited powers gardaí have and avoid any penalties. Under current legislation, gardaí have found it difficult to deal with the use of quads and scramblers in public places from an enforcement perspective. Crucially, gardaí have limited power to seize and keep vehicles engaged in the sort of anti-social activity I have described. Housing estates, greens and parks are not considered public space under current legislation and this is clearly an anomaly in the law that needs to be corrected in legislation. The law as it stands now means that many vehicles seized by gardaí in public spaces are returned to the registered owners with little or no sanction on the owners because current legislation does not consider these areas as public spaces. Therefore those who ride their quads and scramblers in such areas are not in breach of the law.
This Bill, which Deputy Munster and I introduced last year, will extend the powers the gardaí have to include public spaces. The Bill will address the definition of public space, giving gardaí power to deal with vehicles being used in such a manner. This Bill is designed to correct anomalies. There is clearly something missing in the definition of public spaces. I hope that the Minister, the Government and others in this House will support us. The indicators are different. I feel that we need support with this. I have been at safety forums and policing forums where gardaí, including senior gardaí, have indicated that there is a major problem. I know the Minister has indicated that he will oppose this and I have heard his excuse. I feel that this needs to be looked at. I offer a hand to say that if the Minister lets this go to Committee Stage, we will look at whatever he has to say, whether amendments or other suggestions, and take them on board. I do the same for his colleagues in Fianna Fáil. I hope he will think about this.