Road Traffic (All-Terrain Vehicle and Scrambler Motorcycle) (Amendment) Bill 2020: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Road Traffic Act 1961 to further regulate the use of all-terrain vehicles and scrambler motorcycles in a public place, to make further provision for the seizure, by An Garda Síochána, of said vehicles and motorcycles in certain circumstances, to provide for the confiscation and disposal of same when a person contravenes the law in relation to the use of both all-terrain vehicles and scrambler motorcycles in a public place and to provide for related matters.

In the last Dáil I introduced the Road Traffic (All-Terrain Vehicle and Scrambler Motorcycle) (Amendment) Bill, which obviously fell with the last Dáil. That Bill had the support of all the Opposition parties, and I expect that this Bill should enjoy the same support. While we continually got confusing feedback from Ministers for Justice and Equality in the previous Government, the key issues that need to be resolved regarding additional Garda powers in this area are clearer than ever. By and large and by its own admission the Garda has sufficient powers in a general sense. However, it requires the power of seizure without interception.

In the majority of cases scrambler bike users are juveniles. The idea of a Garda driver pursuing a 14 or 15-year-old across a public park at high speed is rife with dangers for the garda, for the public and for the scrambler rider himself or herself. However, the Garda does not have the power at present to identify where the rider lives, identify the scrambler in the curtilage of the property, and subsequently to confiscate it on the basis of antisocial and dangerous use in a public space. This is not just me saying this; this is the factual and real-time position as outlined to Deputy McAuliffe and me by senior gardaí.

Too often I have seen the antisocial use of scramblers destroy open spaces in my constituency, including in McGee Park and Killinarden Park in Tallaght. Too often this antisocial use has taken place while juveniles are on-site, training or playing matches, which have subsequently had to be abandoned.

I acknowledge the work of local gardaí in Tallaght for their interventions when these activities occur. This Bill will give them the powers they require once and for all. Any other issues, such as additional resources, are secondary to this legislation which is required. In most cases already when gardaí have been able to identify the illegal, antisocial and dangerous use of scramblers, the bikes have actually been confiscated and, in most cases, destroyed. I hope the House supports the Bill.

It is a great pleasure to introduce my first Bill to the House with the support of my colleague, Deputy Lahart, who did so much in the last Dáil on the matter and had the support of the entire Fianna Fáil Party. The programme for Government includes a commitment to legislate to address the problems caused by illegally driven scrambler bikes. The problem is well understood by the Government, from the top, the head of Government, An Taoiseach, who has seen it at first hand in my constituency, right down to every community impacted by the issue.

The programme for Government signalled a change in direction, a signal to those in the permanent government, the Civil Service, that is not okay to leave things as they are. We have heard too many stories of people who have been injured, including a young boy will never have the same smile after it was smashed by a scrambler bike, an old lady who was prevented from calling an ambulance until the perpetrators cleared the scene, a young boy with special needs who suffered two broken legs, and the many people who have died.

Illegally driven scrambler bikes make many parks and other green spaces too dangerous for people to enjoy and destroy facilities relied on by sports clubs. Their use involves antisocial behaviour, the movement of illegal drugs and organised crime. It presents a real challenge to order in our communities and undermines the confidence in An Garda Síochána.

The Bill does three things. Section 2 amends the definition of a public place in the principal road traffic legislation. This contrasts with previous Bills which amended a certain section. Section 5 makes it an offence to ride a scrambler bike dangerously in a public place and makes confiscation the penalty for this offence. Section 6 directs the Minister to make regulations to provide for the seizure of scrambler bikes in the curtilage of the dwelling. Property confiscated under the Act can also be disposed of rather than being available for collection.

It is imperative for the Government to approach the issue with a whole-of-government response, involving different Departments. Legislation such as this needs to be supported by a package of non-legislative measures by other Departments. This is the first step in the Government delivering on its commitments.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.