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Gardaí to crack down on scramblers in Dublin estates on Christmas Day

The government is currently reviewing legislation to ensure gardaí have the necessary powers to deal with the issue.

Image: Garda Press

GARDAÍ WILL BE tackling illegally operated scramblers and quad bikes again this year with a targeted operation in north Dublin housing estates over Christmas. 

On Christmas Day last year gardaí arrested five people and seized a number of vehicles, including scrambler bikes, in the Cabra and Finglas areas of north Dublin.

TheJournal.ie understands gardaí in Finglas, Cabra and the north inner city are running a similar operation again this year to crack down on the illegal use of these vehicles over the next few days. 

In May, Fianna Fáil councillor Rachel Batten was the victim of an assault by a youth on a scrambler. She was taking part in a community clean-up in Dublin when the group witnessed a gang of youths on scramblers run a red light and crash into another vehicle.

A woman who was with Batten gestured to them that they had broken the light and one youth came at them and began to hit Batten with a brush. She suffered a broken wrist in the assault. 

Last year 39-year-old Ilabek Avetian was severely injured when a teenager on a scrambler ran over his head while he lay sunbathing with his wife in a park in Darndale.

He suffered a severe brain injury and lost his left eye, as well as sustaining a number of fractures to his forehead, nasal bones and jaw in the incident. His wife Anzhela Kotsinian also sustained a fractured pelvis.

Ilabek Avetian Avetian Ilabek with his wife Anzhela Kotsinian. Source: Anzhela Kotsinian via GoFundMe

The 16-year-old boy who was on the bike at the time was dealt with through the garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and so has not faced prosecution.

Earlier this month gardaí reinforced their message about the dangers associated with children and young teenagers being gifted quad bikes and scramblers. 

They pointed out that most of the incidents of injuries or deaths involving these vehicles on public roads involved children under the age of 18. 

Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary of the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau said gardaí “do not want to be delivering devastating news to another family this Christmas”.

He said children and young teenagers should not be driving these vehicles in public, or without the necessary licence, insurance, safety equipment and supervision.

An Garda Síochána also said it wanted to highlight that some youths on scramblers have been linked to anti-social behaviour in parks and public areas. 

This illegal and anti-social use of scramblers and quads poses a serious safety hazard and a potential to case fear and intimidation in our communities. Gardaí will have a visible presence in highlighted locations and will be enforcing the Public Order Act and the Road Traffic Act.

Review of legislation

In 2017, 62 people were injured in incidents involving off-road vehicles like scrambler and quad bikes. 

As part of an operation gardaí ran last year, officers had also called into schools in the run up to the festive season to warn them of the dangers associated with these bikes.

Leaflets were distributed in an attempt to dissuade parents from purchasing the vehicles and young people from using them.

An inter-agency group was established last year by the Department of Justice to examine the misuse of scramblers and quad bikes in Ireland. Part of this work has been to review criminal justice and public order legislation to ensure that An Garda Síochána possesses the necessary powers to deal with the issue.

In response to a recent parliamentary question, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan told Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall that the group, at its last formal meeting in March this year, had agreed that, “in the main”, current legislative provisions appeared to be sufficient.

“Nonetheless it was also agreed that the group would remain open to considering workable legislative solutions to any specific legislative gaps specifically identified by An Garda Síochána,” he said.

Flanagan said his officials had written to the Garda Commissioner on the issue and Drew Harris in his response suggested “potential legislative changes which the organisation believes could assist in improving policing in this area”.

He said these proposals are received detailed consideration in his department and have been shared with the Department of Transport.

These proposals were also further scrutinised by the cross-agency group earlier this month to “ascertain whether they can be progressed alongside targeted enforcement measures, awareness raising and youth engagement, which are key to success in combatting this behaviour”.

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