I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am sharing time with Deputy Curran. We are delighted to get this Bill to Second Stage. It is necessary legislation which we introduced on First Stage recently. I wish to address the reasons Fianna Fáil is introducing this legislation. Quad bikes and scramblers are terrorising too many communities. It is a growing and disturbing trend. We are all familiar with the media case of the Armenian man, Ilabek Avetian, who lost an eye and was left in a coma last year when he was run over by a scrambler bike while sunbathing with his wife in a public park. In 2017 alone, 62 people were injured in quad and scrambler bike accidents. While we acknowledge that gardaí do their best to police the use of these vehicles, they currently exist in a legal lacuna as road traffic legislation, probably the most contested legislation on the Statute Book, is not applicable to green spaces and parks where these vehicles are most commonly used. I know previous efforts were made in this House to address that. Even if those spaces were included under the road and traffic Acts, which is what the Minister was referring to in his press release when he said he would oppose the Bill and that gardaí have these powers to detain people using scrambler bikes already, the simple fact and what makes this Bill necessary is that in order to detain a youth using a scrambler, gardaí first have to catch them. In order to catch them, they have to pursue and chase them, which involves traversing public space and putting the public at risk. Senior gardaí across various joint policing committees in this county and beyond have issued instructions to officers not to pursue, chase or attempt to intercept youths on scramblers because the very act of chasing poses a danger to the public. Even when gardaí see a bike being driven in an illegal manner on public roads, drivers simply go off-road and prevent gardaí from taking any action.
This Bill will address these issues. For the first time, riding a quad or scrambler bike in an antisocial and dangerous manner will be an offence under public order legislation, not under roads and traffic legislation. This is an important step forward as it will give gardaí the power to seize bikes that are being ridden dangerously in all public areas, including parks and green spaces. The Bill will increase the penalties for supplying these bikes to underage people. Between 2014 and 2017, 39 people lost their lives on scramblers and quad bikes. Three out of four of them were children. It is simply irresponsible and reckless to supply these bikes to children. The Bill will increase the maximum fine for doing so to €5,000. It will also allow gardaí to seize a bike that has been illegally supplied. The Bill will direct the Minister to establish a national vehicle register for these vehicles, to increase accountability for their owners. Too often, quads and scrambler bikes are not registered by any owner, making it very difficult for gardaí to enforce laws surrounding them. Finally, the Bill will require the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to introduce regulations allowing gardaí to remove these bikes from the curtilage of a home.
I wish to address the question as to whether the Bill negatively affects legitimate quad and scrambler bike users, such as farmers. We on this side of the House are aware that all-terrain vehicles, ATVs, have many legitimate uses such as in farming. Certain hobbyists are also responsible and safe in their use of these vehicles. Much of this Bill is not applicable to these users as they are not guilty of using these vehicles in a dangerous or antisocial manner. As it stands, quad bikes are already supposed to be taxed and insured on public roads, so this does not create any new requirement for legitimate users. Nor does the Bill create any new requirements for quad and scrambler bikes that are used solely on private property such as farms. We do not believe it is overly onerous for these users to have to register their bikes with a national vehicle registration database as is required under this legislation. Safe and responsible users of these vehicles have nothing to fear from accountability and indeed this register may prove useful in terms of tracing stolen bikes. The Bill does increase the penalties where the bike is being driven in an unsafe or antisocial manner. However, legitimate users of quad bikes have nothing to fear in this regard.
The Bill is really needed. Representatives of the Garda have been very clear regarding the legal ambiguity surrounding quad and scrambler bikes. Last year, following that tragic accident in Darndale Park, assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy said that there was no certainty as to whether gardaí could enforce laws regarding quads and scramblers in public parks which fall outside the definitions of "public place" in road traffic legislation. According to the joint policing parks subcommittee, Dublin City Council, in conjunction with the other Dublin local authorities, An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality, is also considering the options to deal with the danger caused by the use of quad bikes and scramblers within park grounds as the existing legislation has limited power to enforce such issues permitting An Garda Síochána to take action only if they are being driven erratically on public roads and footpaths. Members of the force are advised not to pursue quad bikes due to the risk of accident or injury to users and bystanders.
The Minister's decision as indicated in a press release to oppose this Bill is going to represent a turning point in this Dáil. It represents a complete inability to see the dangers and challenges on the ground, particularly that communities are facing. Deputy Curran and other Deputies will speak on this. In areas of my constituency such as Kingswood, Killinarden, Jobstown, Kiltipper, Old Bawn, Fettercairn and the Dodder Valley, scramblers are being used and, as one person said to me, they only seem to come out when the goal nets go up on the public pitches. They are being driven through laneways. Motorcyclists are doing wheelies. They are ploughing up pitches and open spaces, interrupting football games and interrupting social play and activity. They are preventing the 95% of people who use their local amenities sensibly and responsibly from doing so. In rejecting this Bill, the Minister is turning his back on communities across Dublin. He is making a political calculation that it does not matter and that there will be no political cost to it. In saying the Garda already has the powers it needs, the Minister has completely ignored what the gardaí are saying. I reiterate that gardaí have the powers to detain scrambler and quad bike users but to do so, they need to stop them, which means they need to chase and intercept them. Senior gardaí across the metropolitan areas have issued instructions that they cannot do this because it puts the lives of the public in danger. The Bill circumvents this and gives gardaí the powers to do it. The Minister is saying the gardaí ought to use the powers they have and to enforce them. He is saying gardaí on motorbikes should pursue a scrambler rider across open space and public parks, or they should be pursued by a four by four jeep if they had one in Tallaght or by a number of squad cars until they catch a person, putting God knows how many lives potentially in danger. Not to see that represents a disconnect from the reality of what is happening in these communities.
We are in an election cycle. Our preparation of this legislation came well in advance of that. This issue is not exclusive to Dublin. In Kerry, there are issues with quad bikes and scramblers on beaches. It is also beginning to emerge as a problem in Limerick and other centres. Failing to recognise this indicates that the Government is completely disconnected, unaware and - if it opposes the legislation - indifferent to the consequences. Simply stating that the Garda has all the powers it needs completely misses the point, particularly when the force is reluctant to use those powers because of the danger in which the general public can be placed as a result.