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Gardaí record 34 incidents where Covid-19 emergency powers were invoked

The incidents were recorded between 8 April and 18 April during which gardaí said the vast majority of people were compliant.

Stock image of garda checkpoint on Kildare/Dublin border during Covid-19 pandemic.
Stock image of garda checkpoint on Kildare/Dublin border during Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

GARDAÍ HAVE RECORDED 34 incidents in which the emergency enforcement powers handed to them as a result of the Covid-19 emergency were invoked.

The incidents were recorded between 8 April and 18 April during which gardaí said the vast majority of people were compliant with the regulations set out by the Government on the advice of public health officials.

Gardaí said hundreds of thousands of interactions between members of the public and An Garda Síochana occurred during that time and that regulations under the Health Act 1947- Section 31A- Temporary Restrictions (Covid 19) Regulations 2020, were used on 34 occasions.

Of the 34 incidents, two were as a result of an instruction from a relevant medical professional as per the Act, gardaí said.

The emergency legislation gives gardaí the power to arrest and detain – under the guidance of certain health professionals – those who are suspected as being sources of infection in the event that a person does not comply with the public health guidelines. 

In addition, there were 405 Covid-19 related incidents that started as potential breaches of the regulations, but during which other offences were disclosed.

Legislation for offences such as public order, assault, road traffic, and drugs was used instead of the emergency legislation. This included incidents involving house orstreet parties, gatherings beyond the family unit, and non-essential travel.

“An Garda Síochána’s role is to keep people safe through community engagement, particularly with the vulnerable, and our tradition of policing by consent,” Commissioner Drew Harris said.

“In that spirit, Gardaí are engaging with a large amount of people every day and in the vast majority of cases they are complying with the public health guidelines. It is vital this continues because it will help save lives.

‘Unfortunately, there are people who did not adhere to the guidelines and Gardaí had no option but to use the regulations or other legislation. It should be stressed though that this is a tiny proportion of the people we have engaged with over this time.”

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Meanwhile, the Policing Authority last night submitted an interim report to Government in which it said gardaí understood what is involved in the new emergency powers, and is satisfied that gardaí are recording all instances were the new legislation has been invoked. 

It also said “it is with some considerable reluctance that the Authority views the introduction of [spit-hoods] which were brought into use to protect gardaí during the pandemic.”

The report added that Harris provided the Authority with reassurances that spit-hoods would only be used during the current crisis.

The report also pointed to An Garda Síochana’s “legal obligation to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of their employees, customers, service users and everyone affected by their policies and plans.”

The current public health guidelines which involve restricting the public’s movement to gathering essential supplies, providing essential care, or partaking in a brief spell of exercise within 2km of a person’s home, are set to last until 5 May, with a review expected at that stage.

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