Everything the Deputy said is correct. I am, as I suspect some of those who are present in the House know, totally behind this amendment. I accepted it from the Opposition on the day it was moved and I am still supportive of it. Let me explain what has happened in the meantime. I think Members will probably understand it. Deputy Munster, who proposed the amendment, is in the House.
It is an offence for learner drivers to drive unaccompanied under the Road Traffic Acts and enforcement of this requirement is a matter for An Garda Síochána. During the debate on the Road Traffic Bill 2016, to which Deputy Broughan rightly referred, several Deputies raised the case of Geraldine and Louise Clancy, who had been tragically killed in December 2015 in a collision with an unaccompanied learner driver. The Clancy family asked that owners of cars who allowed learners to drive them unaccompanied would be held accountable. Amendments to give effect to that were proposed at the time, and I accepted an amendment proposed by Deputy Munster. Under the amendment it is to be an offence for a vehicle owner to allow a learner to driver to drive their vehicle unaccompanied, with the penalty on conviction of a fine up to a maximum of €2,000 and-or imprisonment up to a maximum of six months. As I stated in the debate, in accepting this amendment, learners who drive unaccompanied are committing an offence, and it is very reasonable that people who knowingly facilitate this offence share responsibility for it. As a result, section 39 of the Road Traffic Act 2016 provides for the offence where the owner of a vehicle allows it to be driven by a learner driver driving unaccompanied.
As there was, unfortunately, no opportunity for full proper legal scrutiny of the text in advance of its adoption, I indicated that the amendment would need such scrutiny before commencement. Preliminary legal advice has been obtained and has outlined a number of issues which would need to be addressed prior to commencement. These include drafting and definitions, the question of strict liability and interaction with other road traffic legislative provisions. However, I am anxious to address this issue and I have asked my officials to look at amending section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994, to give power to An Garda Síochána to detain vehicles driven by an unaccompanied learner driver, which they do not currently have.
Everyone needs to be aware that a learner permit is not a licence to drive but a permit allowing somebody to drive without a licence for the purpose of learning. It is not to be treated as a licence, nor do we want to go back to the old culture whereby some people were happy to remain learners for decades. I want to enact this measure and I assure both Deputy Broughan and Deputy Munster that I will do everything to see that this measure is enacted.