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Gardai ‘spat or coughed at’ 88 times since Covid-19 restrictions introduced in April

Members of An Garda Síochána have been spat at or coughed on 88 times since Covid-19 public health guidelines were introduced.

Commissioner Drew Harris confirmed the figures in a statement issued last night.

He said: “The number of spitting and coughing attacks on Gardaí, while simply carrying out their lawful duties, is reducing but remains unacceptable in any circumstance.

“An Garda Síochána will continue to treat any such incident against a member of An Garda Síochána or any citizen very seriously. The use of Anti-Spit guards has also reduced.

“An Garda Síochána will only use anti-spit guards 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 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.

“The Garda policy and use of anti-spit guards will be reviewed by An Garda Síochána in September 2020.”

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.

Gardai invoked the Public Health regulations on 6 occasions over the June Bank Holiday weekend out of thousands of interactions with the public in open spaces and at checkpoints.

From 8 April, which was when the regulations came into effect, Gardaí have invoked the regulations 289 times. 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, they say, remains a last resort.

Of the 289 incidents, two were as a result of an instruction from a relevant medical professional as per the Act.

61 of these incidents resulted in an at least one arrest (43 under the Public Health regulations), with the remainder being dealt with by recording name and address and then consulting with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution.

To date, in 76 of these incidents a charge or summons has issued. Most incidents involve a single individual but some have resulted in charges against multiple people. The remainder are under criminal investigation.

In addition, pre-existing enforcement powers were used in 1,878 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.

SEE ALSO – Laois front line nurses get €70,000 donation of cream to help treat skin damage and irritation from prolonged PPE use

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.