The Dáil is set to debate a Bill that would see penalties of up to 10 years in jail for persons who, if convicted in the Circuit Court, were found guilty of causing a minor to be in possession of drugs for sale or supply.
The maximum jail time would apply to those convicted irrespective of the quantity of drugs involved
The Bill, known as the Coercion of a Minor (Misuse of Drugs Amendment) Bill 2022, is not being sponsored by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee. It will instead be debated next Thursday evening during private members’ time.
The Bill also provides for what it terms ‘certain evidentiary presumptions in favour of the prosecutor.’
This means that in prosecuting a case under the relevant section of this Bill, the prosecutor need not prove that the drug is a controlled drug. The prosecutor would also not have to prove that the person being prosecuted knew that the child was a child.
Deputy Mark Ward, Sinn Fein, who initially introduced the Bill in January, said at the time, that while drug use and drug selling by young people from disadvantaged areas is not new, “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. “
The Bill is almost identical to a Bill brought forward by former drug policy spokesman for Fianna Fail John Curran TD in 2019 called the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019.
That Bill, however, contained offences that could be prosecuted in either the District Court or the Circuit Court. The maximum penalties in the District Court was a fine of up to €3,000 and/or imprisonment of up to a maximum of 12 months while the maximum penalties if the case was tried in the Circuit Court was a jail term of up to 10 years and/or a fine.
The Bill which lapsed with the end of the last Dáil is now being taken up in a slightly modified form by Sinn Fein.