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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Leon Farrell via File photo
There have been 100 incidents of spitting or coughing against gardaí since 8 April
Between that date and 13 June, gardaí have had to use anti-spit guards 75 times.

THERE HAVE BEEN 100 incidents of people spitting or coughing on Garda members since 8 April, figures released by An Garda Síochána show. 

Between that date and 13 June, gardaí have had to use anti-spit guards 75 times. 

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said spitting and coughing incidents remain 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,” Harris said. 

Since 8 April until 13 June, gardaí have invoked enforcement powers under the Covid-19 Public Health regulations 307 times.

These include both arrests and incidents without arrest where name and address details were taken for consultation with the Director for Public Prosecution (DPP) on the decision to issue charges. Arrest remains a last resort, gardaí noted. 

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 DPP on the decision to charge. 

To date, in 86 of these incidents a charge or summons has been issued. 

Most incidents involve a single individual but some have resulted in charges against multiple people. 

To date, in 14 of the 307 incidents the DPP directed no charge. The remainder continue to be under criminal investigation. 

In addition, pre-existing enforcement powers were used in 2,086 incidents were 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,” gardaí said. 

Commissioner Harris said: “There has been very good compliance with the public health guidelines. However, we are only in week one of Phase Two. We all need to continue to play our part in reducing the spreading of Covid-19 by staying local, not making unnecessary journeys and maintaining social distancing. 

“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.”

In relation to the use of spit guards, Harris said they would “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”.

The Garda policy and use of anti-spit guards will be reviewed by An Garda Síochána in September.

From 12 March to 13 June, the Garda National Vetting Bureau (GNVB) has processed 32,308 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 a current turnaround time for vetting applications of one day. 

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