215. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of legislation to tackle the ongoing issue of scrambler and quad bikes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12234/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I would like to thank the Deputy for his continued interest in this important public order issue. Legal advices were sought from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in November 2018 in order to identify feasible next steps in response to this public safety concern. These advices were discussed with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) in January.
My Department has also consulted with An Garda Síochána in relation to the enforcement challenges associated with the misuse of scramblers and quad bikes. I am aware that 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. Most recently, my officials have sought formal views from An Garda Síochána concerning the OAG’s legal advice from an enforcement and prosecution perspective.
I have asked my officials, as a matter of priority, to convene a cross-agency meeting comprising DTTAS, An Garda Síochána and Advisory Counsel in order to agree specific measures to deal with the misuse of scramblers and quad bikes. This meeting is scheduled to take place this Friday, 15 March, and I will be happy to update this House further following this meeting.
In terms of current legislation available to Gardaí in the context of the matter referred to by the Deputy, DTTAS has highlighted the following key legislative provisions:
- Scramblers and quad bikes are mechanically propelled vehicles (MPVs), as defined by section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 (as amended). Under road traffic legislation, users of MPVs in a public place must have insurance, road tax and a driving licence, and must also wear a helmet, with severe penalties (including fixed charge notices, penalty points, fines and possible seizure of the vehicle) in the event of non-compliance with these requirements.
- Section 20 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 provides that Gardaí can perform an examination of roadworthiness of any vehicle being used in a public place. Failure to comply with specific standards (for example, in relation to brakes and other essential matters) means that a MPV is not considered suitable for use in a public place as defined in road traffic legislation.
- Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act 2004 makes it an offence to supply a mechanically propelled vehicle to a person under 16 years of age. The supply of such vehicles includes a gift or a loan. Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provides for the detention of vehicles by An Garda Síochána for driving without a driving licence, insurance or motor tax.
- An Garda Síochána also has recourse to a range of public order provisions, including section 13 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997 (i.e. offence of endangerment).
I am further informed that the use of quad bikes and scramblers in certain public parks and open spaces is strictly prohibited by the local authorities under the Parks and Open Spaces Bye-Laws 2011.
Insofar as national parks are concerned, my colleague, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has legislative powers to prohibit the unauthorised use of off-road vehicles.