31 spitting incidents on gardaí recorded but 'high level of compliance' remains

31 spitting incidents on gardaí recorded but 'high level of compliance' remains
GardaCommissioner Drew Harris during a media briefing on the continuation of Operation Fanacht and use by Gardai of the regulations at Garda HQ in the Phoenix PArk, Dublin.Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

An Garda Síochána have reported 31 incidents of spitting or coughing at gardaí since the enforcement of further restrictions on April 8.

Members of An Garda Síochána had to use anti-spit guards 15 times from the period of April 8 to April 25 inclusive, as a last resort in line with a recently graduated policing response in relation to Covid-19.

The policing response adopted by An Garda Síochána sees gardaí engage, educate, encourage and at the last resort, enforce if required where people are not adhering to restrictions.

In circumstances where there is clear evidence of spitting or where a member believes there is a clear and tangible threat of spitting posed by the subject, gardaí are permitted to use anti-spit guards which are a lawful use of force.

Despite the number of spitting incidents, gardaí continue to experience a high level of compliance with public health guidelines by members of the public at the many checkpoints and high visibility patrols it is conducting at tourist locations, natural beauty spots, and parks and beaches across the country.

The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of people gardaí have interacted with since the new restrictions were adhering to the public health guidelines.

Commissioner Drew Harris said: "There remains a high level of compliance with the public health guidelines. I know this has been difficult for people, but it is critical this high level of compliance continues. This is an important week for the country in challenging Covid-19.

"Unfortunately, there are people who did not adhere to the guidelines and members of An Garda Síochána 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.

"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.” 

Gardaí have invoked the regulations a total of 76 times from April 8 to April 25.

Of the 76 incidents, two were as a result of an instruction from a relevant medical professional as per the Health Act 1947- Section 31A- Temporary Restrictions (Covid19) Regulations 2020.

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 760 incidents where other offences were highlighted in the course of Covid-19 operations. These range from incidents such as from drink driving detected at checkpoints, to drugs seizures to public order offences.

Speaking about the spitting and coughing attacks on gardaí, Commissioner Harris continued: "These spitting and coughing attacks on our personnel are reprehensible, and show the challenges members of An Garda Síochána are facing in keeping people safe in unique circumstances. It is vital that we protect their health and safety.

“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 our Code of Ethics and human rights," he said.

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