Gardaí invoked Covid-19 regulations six times last week
In supporting the COVID-19 public health guidelines, An Garda Síochána has adopted a graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent. This has seen members of An Garda Síochána engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce.
They invoked Covid-19 regulations six times last week, bringing the total to 313 since the pandemic response began.
In what is a very small minority of cases across the country, despite receiving a number of warnings, some individuals were still not willing to take steps to comply with the public health guidelines and the regulations were used under the Health Act 1947- Section 31A- Temporary Restrictions (COVID-19) Regulations 2020.
From 8 April, which was when the regulations came into effect, until 20 June 2020 inclusive, Gardaí have invoked the regulations 313 times out of more than a million interactions with the public. These include both arrests and incidents without arrest where name and address details were taken for consultation with the DPP on the decision to issue charges. Arrest remains a last resort.
Of the 313 incidents, two were as a result of an instruction from a relevant medical professional as per the Act.
As per Garda policy in relation to the regulations, in all cases where arrests were made under the regulations, members of An Garda Síochána must consult with the Director of Public Prosecutions on the decision to charge.
To date, in 94 of these incidents a charge or summons has issued. Most incidents involve a single individual but some have resulted in charges against multiple people. To date, in 25 of the 313 incidents, the DPP directed no charge. The remainder continue to be under criminal investigation.
In addition, pre-existing enforcement powers were used in 2,127 incidents where other offences were disclosed in the course of COVID-19 operations. These range from incidents such as drink driving or disqualified drivers detected at checkpoints, to drugs and weapons seizures, to public order offences.
The number of incidents involving other suspected crimes continues to far exceed the number of cases involving only breaches of Government restrictions.
Commissioner Drew Harris said, "We are still in Phase 2 so it is important that the very good compliance with the public health guidelines that we have seen so far continues. We all still need to stay local, not make unnecessary journeys, and maintain social distancing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
"At the outset of the COVID-19 situation, I said that An Garda Síochána will continue to operate as a community-based policing service with a focus on protecting the vulnerable. This approach will not change during this phase.”
From 8 April until 20 June 2020 inclusive, there were 112 incidents of spitting and/or coughing against members of An Garda Síochána.
From 8 April until 20 June 2020 inclusive, members of An Garda Síochána had to use anti-spit guards 78 times.
"Gardaí continue to be subject of despicable spitting and coughing attacks. This remains a serious concern for the organisation. These are a significant health and safety risk to our members in the current environment. We must protect them from such attacks," said Commissioner Harris.
"This includes having the option of using anti-spit guards in very limited circumstances. We have made it clear these anti-spit guards are only to be used as last resort and in line with the Garda Decision Making Model, which includes at its centre human rights and our Code of Ethics.”
Anti-spit guards provide an additional tactical option to be considered by a Garda, as a last resort in a continuum of graduated response, in circumstances where ‘there is clear evidence of spitting now or where a member believes there is a clear and tangible threat of spitting posed by the subject’.
The Garda policy and use of anti-spit guards will be reviewed by An Garda Síochána in September 2020.
From 12 March 2020 to 20 June 2020, the Garda National Vetting Bureau (GNVB) has processed 34,392 vetting applications for COVID-related roles. This includes applications across medical and healthcare roles, and voluntary groups. GNVB has been fully up-to-date throughout 2020 with all vetting applications with a current turnaround time for vetting applications of one day.