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Select Committee on Enterprise and Economic Strategy debate -
Wednesday, 10 Jul 1996


I move amendment No. 15:

In page 12, subsection (3), between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

"(a) an authorised person or a member of the Garda Síochána acting in the course of his or her duty,".

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 18, as amended, stand part of the Bill".

Three separate paragraphs in the section deal with defences for the accused. The first is if he or she can show no permission was given to have the horse in a controlled area. A second defence is that there was no reason to believe a horse licence was not in force in respect of the horse. The third defence is where evidence is supplied that an application has been made for a licence. However, it appears these three defences will be exercised by people who will not use them for the correct purposes but to flout the Bill.

When the legislation was drafted and the defences included, it was intended that they would apply to people with a reasonable attitude to the problem. However, a person who wanted to frustrate the working of the Bill could use the references to ensure it does not function properly and to disrupt the working of the local authorities and the by-laws. They could also use them to prevent a course of action under way, short circuit the Bill and return the position to square one. They could do this legitimately on a number of occasions. I ask the Minister to address my concerns because this area could give rise to much activity in the courts in terms of defences put forward under the three provisions unless measures are taken to ensure they are not abused or mechanisms are put in place to ensure they are not overused by certain people to frustrate the intention of the Bill.

The provisions were included in the Bill to protect people's rights and I hope they will not in any way influence the effectiveness of the legislation. The various points raised by Deputy Walsh were considered but, following consultation with a number of people, including my officials and the parliamentary draftsman, the provisions were deemed necessary in case people's property rights were infringed or individuals were treated unfairly. I hope they will not have the opposite effect as outlined by Deputy Walsh, but the measures were deemed necessary as defences for individuals. This is why they were included in the Bill. They are not intended to be an escape mechanism for culprits. I understand they are standard procedures.

I am particularly interested in the Bill. I watched the committee's proceedings on the monitor all morning. The Bill does not relate to rational people or typical old style horse owners who keep animals and look after them properly. Such people pose no difficulty. The Bill is intended to deal with people who allow their horses to wander and cause a nuisance and they will use every escape mechanism they can find to get out of having a licence or proper control of the animals. The provisions will not impinge on people doing business correctly. However, they will allow an opening to people who use and abuse the system. The Minister needs to take a tighter hold of this area.

Section 10 is the Bill's strongest point, but it is a total waste of time if it cannot be implemented by the Garda or a local authority inspector. Gardaí and local authority officials are extremely busy people and they do not have the time to chase these people. If they cannot pin such people down immediately, they will become frustrated and the Bill will be ineffective. We want an effective Bill to deal with this problem once and for all.

Question put and agreed to.