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Gardaí coughed on or spat at in 31 incidents this month, with 'spit hoods' used 15 times

The Garda Commissioner said most people are still compliant with the restrictions.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THERE HAVE BEEN 31 incidents since 8 April in which gardaí were spat at or coughed on and new ‘spit hoods’ issued to officers have been used 15 times.

Anti-spit guards – known as ‘spit hoods’ – are placed over the head and face of an individual where a police officer perceives a tangible threat of spitting. 

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris today gave an update on Operation Fanacht, revealing gardaí have invoked their emergency pandemic enforcement powers 76 times since they came into effect on 8 April.

This included two incidents involving an instruction from a relevant medical professional.

Some of these incidents are already before the courts. Pre-existing enforcement powers were also used in 760 incidents where other offences were highlighted in the course of Covid-19 operations.

These range from incidents such as drink driving detected at checkpoints to drugs seizures to public order offences.

He said the vast majority of people are compliant with the current public health advice. 

However he said the spitting and coughing attacks on members of An Garda Síochána are “reprehensible” and show the challenges gardaí face. 

“It is vital that we protect their health and safety,” he said.

The Policing Authority has expressed concern about the introduction of ‘spit hoods’, but Harris stressed that management has made it clear that they “are only to be used as a last resort”. 

Only gardaí who have completed training in the use of these anti-spit guards may use them. The policy and use of these items will be reviewed in September. 

Day trips

Harris also addressed commentary around people from Northern Ireland coming on day trips to the Republic. He said the issue has been raised with the Attorney General and it has been clarified that the essential travel regulations do not apply to a person on a day trip from Northern Ireland, because this is not their place of residence. 

“Other regulations would apply around mass gatherings, those sorts of incidents, plus they are subject to the full canon of criminal law and road traffic legislation.”

The commissioner said if a person has a place of residence here, such as a holiday home, an Airbnb or other form of accommodation the restrictions do apply. 

“Once you reach that place of residence, the restrictions apply to you no matter where you’re from,” he said. 

Harris said he knows of two such incidents that were referred to the Director of Public Prosecution.

“People had visited the jurisdiction and gone on quite long journeys and actually their purpose for doing so – and they were quite open about it – it wasn’t one we’d call an essential journey.”

However he said in general there are not “huge numbers” involved. 

He said An Garda Síochána is working with the PSNI to try to make sure policing on either side of the border is “complimentary”.

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