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Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# An Garda Síochána
There have been 88 incidents of spitting or coughing against gardaí
Gardaí have used spit-guards 63 times since 8 April, according to new figures.

FIGURES RELEASED BY An Garda Síochána show that there have been 88 incidents of people spitting or coughing on Garda members since 8 April.

Between that date and this weekend, Gardaí have had to use anti-spit guards 63 times.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said although the number of incidents were reduced, they were “unacceptable”.

“An Garda Síochána will continue to treat any such incident against a member of An Garda Síochána or any citizen very seriously,” he said.

Gardaí said they had invoked enforcement powers under the Covid-19 Public Health regulations 289 times since that same date- and 13 times in the last week.

An Garda Síochána invoked the Public Health regulations on 6 occasions over the June Bank Holiday weekend out of “thousands” of interactions with the public in open spaces and at checkpoints. 

In order to implement the guidelines issued in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, An Garda Síochána has an aim to “engage” first with members of the public, “educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce”.

Gardaí said “the vast majority” are continuing to adhere to the public health guidelines, but “a small minority of cases across the country” wouldn’t comply with public guidelines despite receiving warnings.

The figures

From 8 April, which was when the regulations came into effect, until 30 May inclusive, Gardaí have invoked the regulations 289 times.

These include both arrests and incidents without arrest where details like names and addresses were taken for consultation with the Director of Public Prosecution on the decision to issue charges. Arrest remains a last resort, Gardaí emphasised.

Of the 289 incidents, two were as a result of an instruction from a relevant medical professional as per the Act.

61 of these incidents resulted in an at least one arrest (43 under the Public Health regulations), with the remainder being dealt with by recording name and address and then consulting with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

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 Director of Public Prosecutions on the decision to charge.

To date, in 76 of these incidents a charge or summons has issued. Most incidents involve a single individual but some have resulted in charges against multiple people. The remainder are under criminal investigation.

In addition, pre-existing enforcement powers were used in 1,878 incidents – this is where other offences not related to the pandemic were detected during 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 Drew Harris said, “An Garda Síochána continues to see significant public support for the Public Health Guidelines.

Many individual, families and small groups took advantage of the good weather over the weekend to enjoy the bank holiday weekend and avail of physical exercise. Most did so with the best efforts to comply with Public Health guidelines.

“Unfortunately An Garda Síochána did have to intervene in a number of locations to engage, educate, encourage and ultimately enforce the Regulations.

He said that key locations such as parks, beaches and natural beauty spots will be patrolled by community gardaí over the coming days.

In relation to the use of spit-guards, Commissioner Harris highlighted that they would “only use anti-spit guards as last resort and in line with the Garda Decision Making Model, which includes at its centre human rights and our Code of Ethics”.

Anti-spit guards provide an additional tactical option to be considered by a Garda, as a last resort in a continuum of graduated response, in circumstances where ‘there is clear evidence of spitting now or where a member believes there is a clear and tangible threat of spitting posed by the subject’.

The Garda policy and use of anti-spit guards will be reviewed by An Garda Síochána in September 2020.

From 12 March 2020 to 01 June 2020, the Garda National Vetting Bureau (GNVB) has processed 29,090 vetting applications for Covid-related roles. This includes applications across medical and healthcare roles, and voluntary groups.

Gardaí said that the GNVB has been fully up-to-date with all vetting applications throughout 2020 with a current turnaround time for vetting applications of one day – adding that there was “no vetting backlog at any point in 2020″.

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