Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Questions (46)

John Curran

Question:

46. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress being made by the cross-agency group on the issue of illegal use of scramblers and quad bikes; the outcome of this engagement; the steps that will be taken as a result of meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4174/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I would like to thank the Deputy for his continued interest in this important public safety issue. The Deputy will recall, on the occasion of his previous oral parliamentary question, that I undertook to update the Deputy in relation to the ongoing consultations conducted by my officials and I welcome the opportunity to do this now.

My Department's main focus in the intervening months has been on the consideration of the detailed, formal legal advice received from the Office of the Attorney General in November. As such, the scope of the consultation process has primarily involved bilateral consultation with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Transport) in the context of existing road traffic legislation.

It is important to emphasise again that the exploration of potentially relevant legislation has served to highlight the complex nature of this issue, whereby a number of potential avenues could simultaneously aid and hinder Garda enforcement and public safety. I can assure the Deputy that a detailed consideration of the matter is ongoing in order to identify feasible next steps.

My officials met again last week (22 January) with colleagues from the Department of Transport to consider the advices in greater detail. The consensus of both Departments, and the Office of the Attorney General, is that road traffic and public order legislation appears to provide adequate means for prosecuting offences relating to this antisocial behaviour. A further meeting to consider the matter is being arranged.

However, as the Deputy is aware, the Gardaí have experienced serious difficulties from an enforcement perspective when attempting to apprehend persons engaging in this dangerous and anti-social behaviour. Interception poses significant risks, not only to the drivers and passengers of these vehicles, but also to members of the public and local Gardaí in affected communities.

I would like, therefore, to take this opportunity to commend the Gardaí involved in the successful operation that took place in Cabra on Christmas day last. This was a resource-intensive Garda operation, which posed considerable risk to the attending members. In total, 11 quad bikes and 2 cars were seized under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 and 5 arrests were made for dangerous driving in accordance with section 53 of the Road Traffic Act 1961.

I am informed that investigation files are being prepared for the Director of the National Juvenile Office in respect of these arrests. In addition, CCTV footage is being analysed to identify others who may be prosecutable for public order, endangerment and other associated offences. An Garda Síochána has acknowledged the positive support from members of the community who provided information to Gardaí during the operation and I would like to thank these members of the community for their support.

A precursor to this successful operation was a proactive public awareness campaign in the Dublin Metropolitan Region West Garda Division. Community Policing Gardaí visited schools in the area from November 2018, highlighting the dangers associated with the misuse of these vehicles and distributing information leaflets to parents to discourage the purchase of vehicles for their children. The Deputy will also be aware that the Road Safety Authority and Dublin local authorities launched safety campaigns in November 2018. These awareness-raising activities underscore the multi-pronged approach utilised by Gardaí; positive results cannot be achieved by enforcement alone.

Finally, my officials will update the South Dublin County Council taskforce, focusing on the misuse of scramblers/quad bikes, on the consultations that have taken place since the previous meeting of the taskforce on 14 November. The taskforce will meet again in the coming weeks.