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Garda Commissioner says some people's 'antics' were deserving of Covid fines over Christmas

Drew Harris was speaking at the Policing Authority meeting today.
Feb 25th 2021, 5:58 PM 23,839 48

GARDA COMMISSIONER DREW Harris has said that certain “antics” of people over the Christmas period were deserving of Fixed Charge Penalty Notices (FCPN).

Addressing an online meeting of the Policing Authority, Harris said that An Garda Síochána did not abandon its strategy of informing the public about the restrictions but that there was some behaviour that deserved instant penalties. 

In April 2020, gardaí rolled out what has become the 4Es – Engagement – Explain – Encourage and Enforce. An arrest or any form of punishment was always the last option. 

But when the nation found itself in the midst of its highest Covid crisis with thousands of cases being reported every day in the aftermath of Christmas, Harris said that the force encountered behaviour which was deserving of an instant fine. 

“On 26 December, we found ourselves in a far worse position than was ever anticipated. We had to respond again very quickly to the requirements of Level 5 restrictions and policing of those. 

“The 4Es were brought in last year to give people the opportunity to engage and educate them before enforcement. When we arrived into late December and early January, nobody could have failed to notice the dire straits of dealing with Covid-19 and… everybody was well aware of the restriction then. 

It was not that we abandoned the 4Es altogether. We found that people’s excuses for being out and about, to use the expression…the behaviour and antics which were being illustrated were deserving of enforcements as opposed to engaging with individuals and asking for their compliance. 

Gardaí have publicised certain flagrant breaches of the guidelines. For example, a group of people travelled over 100km to visit a beauty spot in Portlaoise. There was also an incident when a group of young men were found to be travelling a significant distance to pick up burgers in Dublin. Both resulted in fines being issued. 

Harris said that 9,245 FCPNs have been issued by gardaí so far. The majority have related to the movement of people past their 5km limit. However, he said that over 1,100 related to house parties.

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Approximately 6,500 checkpoints were carried out per week in January – less than around 9,500 average weekly checkpoints carried out in May during the initial lockdown.

Harris said the force has played its part in the suppression of Covid-19 and has been able to help and to take the pressure off the HSE. He said this effort has meant not staffing as many national units as much as he would like as well as the temporary closure of some resources such as the Garda College. 

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Garreth MacNamee

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