In supporting the COVID-19 public health guidelines, An Garda Síochána has adopted a graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent. This has seen Gardaí engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce.
An Garda Síochána continues to experience a high level of compliance with the public health guidelines at the many checkpoints and high visibility patrols it is conducting at tourist locations, natural beauty spots, and parks and beaches.
During this time, Gardaí have interacted with hundreds of thousands of people. The vast majority were adhering to the public health guidelines.
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. From 8 April, which was when the regulations came into effect, until 18 April 2020 inclusive, Gardaí have invoked the regulations 34 times.
Of the 34 incidents, two were as a result of an instruction from a relevant medical professional as per the Act.
As per Garda policy in relation to the regulations, in all cases where arrests were made under the regulations, Gardaí consulted with the Director of Public Prosecutions on the decision to charge.
Some of these incidents are already before the Courts.
In addition, there were 405 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/street parties, gatherings beyond the family unit, and non-essential travel.
Commissioner Drew Harris said, "An Garda Síochána’s role is to keep people safe through community engagement, particularly with the vulnerable, and our tradition of policing by consent.
"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. I want to thank the public for this and also the great support they are giving to our members every day.
"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.
"I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sympathies to those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and to recognise the sacrifices that people adhering to the guidelines are making in playing their part in protecting others. It is for those reasons that there is a collective and individual responsibility to maintain compliance with the public health guidelines,” added Commissioner Harris.
The 34 uses of regulations includes the seven regulation uses reported last week.
The 405 COVID-19 related incidents were also between April 8 and April 18 inclusive.
Gardaí do not keep a record of interactions they had with the public where they did not use the regulations i.e. how many times they turned people back at checkpoints etc.
The number of times the regulations are used by Gardaí will be updated on a weekly basis. We will not be issuing daily updates.