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Tougher penalties for vandalising lifebuoys or defibrillators

STEALING or damaging life-saving equipment, such as life buoys or defibrillators, could incur a jail term, or a fine of up of €50,000.

A Life-Saving Equipment Bill 2017 was put before the Seanad last month by Senator Dr. Keith Swanick. 

If implemented, penalties for damage, or theft of a buoy or defibrillator could incur a fine of up to €50,000, or a jail term of up to five years if convicted.

Every year Cork City Council spends €15,000 replacing damaged or stolen life-buoys. It maintains 172 ring buoys throughout the city, all of which are inspected daily.

“It is regrettable that a small number of people choose to interfere with a life-saving device which could result in an unnecessary tragedy at some stage,” City Council Recreation and Sports Officer Stephen Scully said yesterday.

Earlier this month the defibrillator on Oliver Plunkett Street was vandalised for the seventh time. Now the defibrillator is stored in Penneys, and it is inaccessible after close of business.

Cork County Council has estimated that 5% of their 1,400 ring buoys a year are damaged; vandalism accounts for 60% of the incidents.

Senator Swanick has also started an online petition "Support the Life Saving Equipment Bill 2017" on Change.org asking people to support the legislation. Almost 4,500 people have signed it.

When the Oliver Plunkett Street defibrillator was damaged a seventh time, Martin Walley, the city’s defibrillator project leader, said he thought prosecution was the only way to deter people from interfering with them.