Garda Commisioner Drew Harris pictured in Dunleer in March. Photo: Andy Spearman.
Gardaí are reporting a high level of co-operation from members of the public in observing the lockdown regulations although there have been 80 incidents of spitting and/or coughing against members of An Garda Síochána.
Gardaí have interacted with tens of thousands of people while on patrol or at checkpoints. The vast majority were adhering to the public health guidelines.
In what continues to be a small minority of cases across the country, despite receiving a number of warnings, some individuals were still not willing to comply with the public health guidelines and the regulations.
Since 8 April when the regulations came into effect, until 23 May 2020 inclusive, Gardaí have invoked the regulations 263 times. 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.
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Of those 263 incidents, two were as a result of an instruction from a relevant medical professional as per the Act.
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 66 of these incidents a charge or summons has issued. Most incidents involve a single individual but some have resulted in charges against multiple people. The remainder are under criminal investigation.
The number of incidents involving other suspected crimes continues to far exceed the number of cases involving only breaches of Government restrictions.
Altogether there have been 1,752 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 and public order offences.
Commissioner Drew Harris said, "There continues to be very good co-operation by the public with An Garda Síochána in our role of keeping people safe. It is vital that we all keep on playing our part in reducing the spreading of COVID-19 by adhering to the updated public health guidelines.
"Our priority over the coming weeks will be to ensure this primarily through community engagement at key locations such as parks, beaches and natural beauty spots. We also remind people, particularly coming up to the bank holiday weekend, about not travelling to holiday homes or making non-essential journeys.
"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 23 May 2020 inclusive, there were 80 incidents of spitting and/or coughing against members of An Garda Síochána and members had to use anti-spit guards 60 times.
"These disgraceful spitting and coughing attacks on Gardaí while simply carrying out their lawful duties 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.
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