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Four public defibrillators damaged or stolen in recent weeks, prompting calls for harsh penalties

Damage to, or theft of a public defibrillator could be “a death sentence” for someone, according to first responders.

A public access defibrillator vandalised on Tullow Street, Carlow Town
A public access defibrillator vandalised on Tullow Street, Carlow Town
Image: Carlow Town CFR Group

IRELAND’S VOLUNTEER FIRST responders are calling for cross-party support for a bill that would impose a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, a €50,000 fine or both for those convicted of interfering with a defibrillator.

It follows a number of incidents across the country in recent weeks in which publicly accessible Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) were stolen or damaged.

At least four public defibrillators were vandalised, according to the Community First Responders Ireland Network (CFR Ireland).

One public defibrillator was stolen from the Bus Éireann depot in Ballina, Co May, CFR Ireland said in a statement.

CCTV footage of the incident has been handed over to Gardaí and the local Order of Malta unit has donated temporary replacement equipment, the statement said.

Another defibrillator was damaged at Blarney Woolen Mills in Co Cork. CFR Ireland said it was back in service within 24 hours thanks to “huge support” from the local community and gardaí are investigating the incident.

Two other public defibrillators — which were damaged in Sallynoggin, Co Dublin and Carlow Town, Co Carlow — were also restored to service within 24 hours.

CFR Ireland is now calling for all TDs and senators to get behind the Life Saving Equipment Bill 2018, which is currently before Seanad Éireann.

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Dr David Menzies, Medical Director of CFR Ireland said, “Damage to, or theft of a defibrillator installed for public use could be a death sentence for a patient if it were not available for a patient in cardiac arrest as a result.

“It is that serious. Locking up AEDs isn’t the ideal solution – you wouldn’t lock up a fire extinguisher.”

John Fitzgerald, Chair of CFR Ireland, added, “CFR Ireland believes that strict penalties should apply to those guilty of theft of or damage to life saving devices such as defibrillators.

“The issue of defibrillator theft and damage is not new, it is time for action. I would also appeal to those who stole the AEDS to return them.”

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