446. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the discussions of the cross-agency group on quads and scramblers; the number of times it has met; the recommendations it is bringing forward; if it is recommending legislative changes regarding the seizure powers of An Garda Síochána; if the cross agency group is considering recommendations regarding legislation providing for a minimum age of ownership, registration and effective deterrents for when they are used in non-legal situations; if these recommendations have been examined by the Office of the Attorney General; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18544/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy may be aware, in April 2018 the Department convened the cross-agency meeting of all relevant stakeholders to discuss how to address the issue of the antisocial use of scramblers/quad bikes. It was agreed that this group would meet on-demand depending on the direction of work.
As I have outlined previously in this House, the main outcome of the initial meeting was to seek formal legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General in relation to a number of legislative areas, to ascertain whether current legal provisions are sufficient or whether new provisions, or amendments to current provisions, are required to assist An Garda Síochána, without giving rise to any unintended negative legislative consequences.
In response to Deputy Rock on 10 April, I outlined that, once the legal advice was received and considered in detail by Government officials, the group was reconvened on a more focused basis on 15 March 2019. The main purpose of this meeting was to consider any legislative requirements, in light of the advices, with members of An Garda Síochána. It was agreed by those attending that current legislative provisions are sufficient. Of course, it remains open to An Garda Síochána to contact the Department in the event that any legislative gaps are identified.
In relation to recommendations of the group; in the absence of a need for new legislation, it is envisaged that an effective response to this behaviour will be informed by a combination of targeted enforcement measures, awareness-raising, and youth engagement programmes. These measures will be progressed in conjunction with the relevant Departments and agencies.
Again, I must emphasise that policing this issue is a complex matter, due to the difficulties Gardaí experience when attempting to intercept offenders who are in breach of current laws. Interception poses considerable risks to not only the rider, but also to the intercepting Garda and persons in the vicinity. However, I remain committed to finding solutions with our partners, and will provide further updates to this House when the conclusions arising from this process become available.
Finally, I would like to reiterate the comments of Mr Keith Synnott, consultant at the National Spinal Injuries Unit in the Mater hospital, who last week stated that these vehicles are not toys; they are heavy, dangerous pieces of machinery that can cause life-changing injuries or death. I would appeal to the family members, and friends, of those who use these vehicles in urban environments to be aware of the catastrophic consequences that can unfold when using these vehicles in a public place. While there is considerable danger to the rider, members of the community, young and old, who are entitled to enjoy our public spaces in a safe and peaceful manner, are also at risk.