- ‘Turn-back’ rate at four major checkpoints on May 1 – 0.16%
- Gardaí have invoked regulations 139 times out of hundreds of thousands of interactions with public
- Pre-existing enforcement powers used in 1,172 incidents
- 52 incidents of spitting and/or coughing against members of An Garda Síochána.
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 Garda members 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.
A demonstration of this is the compliance rate at checkpoints. This is when individuals stopped at checkpoints are already in compliance with the guidelines or agree to take steps to become compliant such as turning around when asked to by a Garda.
The compliance rate was sampled at four of the larger checkpoints on Friday, 1 May, 2020 – one in each Garda region.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) technology was used to calculate the exact number of vehicles passing through the checkpoints. The system can distinguish between large commercial vehicles and cars/small vans. 21 of the 13,324 car drivers checked - 0.16% - were requested to turn around for not having a valid reason for travel and all agreed to do so.
No details of these cars or drivers are being retained as per Garda policy to first encourage people to bring themselves into compliance to support efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
In what continues to be a small minority of cases across the country, despite receiving a number of warnings, some individuals were still not willing to take steps to comply with the public health 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 2 May 2020 inclusive, Gardaí have invoked the regulations 139 times out of hundreds of thousands of interactions with the public. These include both arrests and incidents without arrest where name and address details were taken for consultation with the DPP on the decision to issue charges. Arrest remains a last resort.
Of the 139 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, members of An Garda Síochána consulted with the Director of Public Prosecutions on the decision to charge.
Some of these incidents are already before the Courts.
In addition, pre-existing enforcement powers were used in 1,172 incidents where other offences were disclosed in the course of 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.
The number of incidents involving other suspected crimes continues to far exceed the number of cases involving only breaches of Government restrictions.
Commissioner Drew Harris said, "The continued high level of compliance with the health guidelines is very welcome and we thank the public for it. Both the low level of ‘turn-backs’ at major checkpoints and the very small usage of the regulations compared to the huge number of interactions we have had with people show that the vast majority of people are playing their part in tackling COVID-19.
"At the outset of the COVID-19 situation, I said that An Garda Síochána will continue to operate as a community-based policing service with a focus on protecting the vulnerable. This approach will not change.”
From 8 April until 2 May 2020 inclusive, there were 52 incidents of spitting and/or coughing against members of An Garda Síochána.
From 8 April until 2 May 2020 inclusive, members of An Garda Síochána had to use anti-spit guards 28 times.
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’.
Anti-spit guards are a lawful use of force and are currently on issue to other police services internationally.
Commissioner Harris said, "Regrettably, we continue to see spitting and coughing attacks on our personnel. These are a significant health and safety risk to our members in the current environment. We must protect them from such disgraceful attacks.
"This includes having the option of using anti-spit guards in very limited circumstances. We have made it clear these anti-spit guards are only to be used as last resort and in line with the Garda Decision Making Model, which includes at its centre human rights and our Code of Ethics.”
Garda management continuously considers various forms of additional PPE which could be deployed to operational Gardaí.
When considering the use of anti-spit guards in line with the Garda Decision Making Model, members of An Garda Síochána must consider all available options and take into account the individual circumstance of the case including the age of the subject and the particular potential vulnerability of juveniles.
Anti-spit guards will be deployed as a temporary measure for the duration of the COVID-19 public health situation.
Policy, including the extent of deployment, and training for anti-spit guards has been issued and only members of An Garda Síochána who have completed this training may deploy this PPE.
The Garda policy and use of anti-spit guards will be reviewed by An Garda Síochána in September 2020.
A Garda spokesperson is not available
Garda members do not keep a record of interactions they had with the public where they did not use the regulations i.e. how many times persons voluntarily turned around at checkpoints, or elsewhere, following engagement, education or encouragement by An Garda Síochána.
The number of times the regulations are used by members of An Garda Síochána will be updated on a weekly basis. We will not be issuing daily updates.
Examples of situations encountered by members of An Garda Síochána:
North West Region
A car was observed making erratic and evasive action to avoid a Covid-19 Checkpoint, almost colliding with a female pedestrian who was out running. Two occupants (not from the same family) were very aggressive and argumentative from outset. Both men were advised in relation to public health guidelines on unnecessary journeys. Both men declined this advice and stated they were travelling 40km to purchase a small part for a trailer. It was further established it was a non-essential part. Neither party knew if the company supplying the part was open or had queried if the part was available. Both formally cautioned and requested to return home. Both declined initially and then stated they would stop wherever they wanted. File has been submitted to Office of DPP.
While conducting a COVID-19 checkpoint, Gardaí stopped a male and questioned him on his movements on the day. Male stated he was travelling to do a painting job in Co Meath, and stated he did not care about restrictions as it has not affected him or anybody he knows. Male stated that he would not be adhering to restrictions from a non-elected government and that he would continue to work. Direction given to male to return to his address. Male ignored direction and continued in the direction of Co Meath. File has been submitted to Office of DPP.
On mobile patrol, Gardaí observed a male accompanied by two others, all from different households. All three directed to leave the area and go home. A short time later, the same male was observed in a different part of town and was again directed home. Later when dealing with a house party, same male arrived at this house party. Again directed home. Stated he was not going home and tried to enter the house party. Male arrested. File has been submitted to Office of DPP.
While Gardaí were on COVID-19 patrol, they stopped a vehicle in a rural location to ascertain the identity of the occupants and their reason for travel. One male passenger was recognised and it was known that he had earlier that evening been directed on three occasions to return home. A second male passenger was also identified and it was known that he had been directed on two separate occasions to return home. File has been submitted to Office of DPP.