May 26, 2020 Faith Matters

Gardai coughed or spat at 80 times since Covid-19 restrictions introduced

Gardai have been spat or coughed at 80 times since Covid-19 travel restrictions were introduced on April 8.

New figures from April 8 to May 23 show gardai used anti-spit guards 60 times.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris condemned the attacks on members of the force.

“These disgraceful spitting and coughing attacks on Gardai while simply carrying out their lawful duties 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.”

“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.”

Mr Harris said anti-spit guards provide an additional tactical option to be considered and are typically used as a last resort.

He said the Garda policy around the use of anti-spit guards will be reviewed in September.

The latest figures also show regulations brought in as part of the lockdown have been enforced 263 times.

These include both arrests and incidents without arrest where name and address details were taken for consultation with the Director of Public Prosecution on the decision to issue charges.

Of the 263 incidents, two were as a result of an instruction from a relevant medical professional.

Sixty-six incidents lead to a charge or summons being issued while the rest are still under investigation.

The force said that gardai have interacted with tens of thousands of people while on patrol or at checkpoints and the vast majority were adhering to the public health guidelines.

In addition, pre-existing enforcement powers were used in 1,752 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.

Mr Harris said there continues to be very good co-operation by the public with An Garda Siochana.

“It is vital that we all keep on playing our part in reducing the spreading of Covid-19 by adhering to the updated public health guidelines.”

“Our priority over the coming weeks will be to ensure this primarily through community engagement at key locations such as parks, beaches and natural beauty spots.

“We also remind people, particularly coming up to the bank holiday weekend, about not travelling to holiday homes or making non-essential journeys.”