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Gardaí say they were forced to use new Covid-19 powers on seven occasions over Easter weekend

Those arrested face a fine of €2,500 or a jail sentence.

A checkpoint on the N7 over the weekend.
A checkpoint on the N7 over the weekend.
Image: Sasko Lazarov via RollingNews.ie

GARDAÍ HAVE SAID they were forced to use new powers given to them to tackle the coronavirus crisis on seven different occasions over the Easter weekend. 

New powers of arrest were given to officers on 8 April which mean they can detain someone who is not complying with garda orders.

Measures in place at present mean members of the public must stay at home, except to gather essential goods, to provide essential care, or to get a brief spell of exercise within 2km of their home. 

Those arrested could face a heavy fine of €2,500 or a jail sentence.

On 8 April, gardaí launched Operation Fanacht, which was to help ensure that members of the public complied with the guidelines set down by the HSE. 

Gardaí conducted 150 permanent checkpoints on major routes, over 500 shorter and mobile checkpoints, as well as a large number of high visibility patrols at tourist locations, natural beauty spots, and parks and beaches.

A garda spokesman said: “In a small number of cases, despite receiving a number of warnings, some individuals did not adhere to the guidelines and the regulations were used under the Health Act 1947- Section 31A- Temporary Restrictions (Covid 19) Regulations 2020 in seven cases.

“As per Garda policy in relation to the regulations, in all cases where arrests were made under the regulations, Garda members will consult with the Director of Public Prosecutions on the decision to charge individuals.”

Gardaí also said that, on 144 occasions, officers had initially stopped people for not adhering to Covid-19 guidelines but found people to be breaking the law in other ways. 

“In addition, there were 144 Covid-19 related incidents that started as potential breaches of the regulations, but during the incidents other offences were disclosed. As such, long-standing legislation for offences such as public order, assault, road traffic, and drugs was used instead. This included incidents involving house parties, gatherings beyond the family unit, and non-essential travel,” the spokesman added.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said, in general, there was a very high level of compliance with the public health guidelines over the Easter weekend.

He said: “I want to thank the public for that. This has helped saved lives. We now need people to continue that high level of compliance over the coming weeks. Working together we can reduce the spread of Covid-19.

“Regrettably, there was a small minority who did not adhere to the guidelines or other legislation and Garda members had no option but to use the regulations or other legislation. This demonstrates the need for the regulations not only from an enforcement point of view, but also to support those who are willingly living their lives in line with the public health guidelines.”

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