The legislation under my remit in relation to the regulation of scrambler bikes, quad bikes and other similar small vehicles, falls under Road Traffic legislation, and relates solely to their use in a public place. It does not extend to private property, or to public parks which are under the jurisdiction of local authorities.
The user of a scrambler motorbike, a quad bike or similar vehicle, in a public place must have insurance, road tax and a driving licence, and must also wear a helmet, with severe penalties under the road traffic laws (including fixed charge notices, penalty points, fines and possible seizure of the vehicle) for not being in compliance with these requirements. It is also, incidentally, and offence to supply a mechanically propelled vehicle to a minor.
For the purposes of the Road Traffic Acts, a “public place” means any public road, and any street, road or other place to which the public have access with vehicles whether as of right or by permission and whether subject to or free of charge. Road traffic law does not extend to the use of mechanically propelled vehicles on private property. Certain places, such as parks under the control of local authorities, can be subject to bye-laws, which those authorities have the power to introduce, to prohibit the use of vehicles. Gardai can also prosecute scrambler and quad bike users in these areas under public order laws.
In April 2018, the Department of Justice convened a task force comprising representatives from an Garda Síochána, the Department of Justice, my Department, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the local authorities and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to examine the current legislative provisions in place and to examine whether further laws need to be enacted to deal with the problem of quads and scramblers.
The taskforce concluded that there is a already a wide suite of legislation available to an Garda Siochana, including road traffic legislation (for using these vehicles illegally in a public place), and public order legislation (for using them on public land). There is no jurisdiction for using quads or scramblers on private land. Consideration was given to whether an extension of the concept of 'public place' in the Road Traffic Acts to cover parks would assist in this area. However, it was concluded following legal advice that the extension of such a fundamental concept in road traffic law in an attempt to address one particular issue would have wide-ranging unintended consequences, and would not be a viable solution.
The Task Force has since met to consider other more precise legal avenues, and will be meeting again shortly to follow up on the options being considered. Any solution will need to involve a combination of legislation - whether new or existing,- enforcement, public awareness campaigns, and approaches to local youth groups, to educate teens on the dangers of using such vehicles. I will be happy to consider any recommendations resulting from this process which fall within my remit.
I would add that, whatever the legislation and whether we are talking of a 'public place' or a park, there remains a major difficulty of enforcement. A Garda giving chase to a youth on a scrambler must be mindful of the safety of other members of the public in the area, and this makes it more difficult to detain the scrambler drivers, whatever the legislation in place.