Thursday, June 25, 2020

Some individuals were unwilling to comply with the public health guidelines during Phase 1 of the State’s Covid-19 response. Photo: An Garda Siochana 

Between April 8 and June 20, there was a recorded total of 112 coughing and/or spitting incidents against members of the Gardaí with members of the force using their anti-spit guards 78 times during this period.

“Gardaí continue to be subject of despicable spitting and coughing attacks,” according to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

“This remains a serious concern for the organisation. These are a significant health and safety risk to our members in the current environment. We must protect them from such attacks.”

Commissioner Harris added: “”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.”

Anti-spit guards provide what Gardaí has described as an additional tactical option or “a last resort in a continuum of graduated response” when “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 force’s current policy and use of anti-spit guards will be reviewed in September.

Between April 8 and June 20, Gardaí invoked the Covid-19 regulations on 313 occasions out of a million-plus interactions with the public. These included arrests and incidents without arrest where name and address details were taken for consultation with the Director for Public Prosecutions (DPP) on the decision to issue charges.

Of those 313, two arose from “an instruction from a relevant medical professional as per the (temporary Covid-19 stipulations as per the Health) Act” with 94 of these incidents leading to the issuing of a charge or summons. The DPP directed no charge from 25 of those incidents with the remainder still under criminal investigation.

During the operational window of Covid-19 regulations, pre-existing enforcement powers were used in a total of 2,127 incidents, including weapons and drugs seizures, public order offences and drink driving.

Commissioner Harris stated: “We are still in Phase 2 so it is important that the very good compliance with the public health guidelines that we have seen so far continues. We all still need to stay local, not make unnecessary journeys, and maintain social distancing to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.”

He concluded: “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 during this phase.”

Gardaí on a recent patrol in Ballymacaw.

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