Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Coercion of a Minor (Misuse of Drugs Amendment) Bill 2022: First Stage.

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Coercion of a Minor (Misuse of Drugs Amendment) Bill 2022: First Stage. (26 Jan 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

Deputy Mark Ward: I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the law relating to the misuse of a controlled substance and for those purposes to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 to criminalise the act of causing or coercing a minor to be in possession of a controlled substance, and to provide for related matters.

Drug use and drug selling by young people from disadvantaged areas is not new but in recent years it has increased and it has spiked. Young people are being targeted by older experienced drug dealers to sell and deliver drugs. Children are being groomed and coerced by unscrupulous drug dealers. They are attracted by the flashy cars and new runners, a few bob in their pockets and the status of being considered a so-called somebody. These criminals are nobodies. They groom our children, suck the lifeblood from our communities and offer nothing in return. While we need to examine the underlying reasons children are attracted to this lifestyle, such as poverty, we also need as legislators to put things in place that will make it more difficult for these criminals to operate. The Bill would mean a prosecutor need not prove the drug is a controlled drug nor prove the person being prosecuted knew the child was a child irrespective of the quantity of drugs involved. The Bill would close any loophole the criminals may be exploiting at present. The Bill would make it a stand-alone offence for adults to use children for the sale and distribution of drugs. It would make it easier for the Garda to press charges against these adult criminals. Our communities have had enough.

Deputy Denise Mitchell: I welcome the opportunity to introduce the Bill along with my colleagues Deputies Ward and Kenny. The Bill will make it a stand-alone criminal offence for any adult to use children for the purpose of selling or distributing drugs. It is simple legislation that could have a positive impact in all of our communities. Offences under the Bill would be prosecuted in the Circuit Court regardless of the quantity. I hope the Bill will act as the deterrent we intend it to be so that anyone using children to distribute or sell drugs is prosecuted. It is a cycle we need to break. I hope the Bill will go some way to doing so.

Deputy Martin Kenny: The Bill is designed, as my colleagues have said, to ensure unscrupulous drug dealers who often use children as couriers to move drugs around can be prosecuted for it. 

Very often with these children, and it has been an experience in many areas throughout the country, they get involved at a very young age in doing that and later become addicts themselves and get caught up in the whole system. 

We are also aware that, in particular, in inner city areas where this is most rampant, we have the study of Dr. Johnny Connolly from the University of Limerick which was done on the south inner city where it was found that only 1% of the population are involved in this kind of criminality. The other 99% of the people who live in these areas have to put up with this scourge, and they and their children can often be the victims in getting caught up in all of it. 

We want this legislation to protect children and communities to ensure we can do something that is relevant to them and will work for them. This legislation deals with only a very small part of it, but it is nonetheless a very important part. We cannot allow the situation to continue of these criminal gangs using children, coercing them and bringing them into their criminal world where they will in future become people who will have difficulties with their education, issues of drug addiction and everything else that goes with that, ending up with chaotic lives in our prison service. It is about intervening in time. One of the early interventions we need to have in respect of this is to ensure these criminal gangs are held to account for abusing children in this way. 

An Ceann Comhairle Is the Bill being opposed?

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Jack Chambers) No. 

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time. 

Deputy Mark Ward: I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.

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