Garda Covid-19 Laws Invoked 192 Times With Rise In Use Of Spit Hoods

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Gardai have used special powers to enforce Covid 19 restrictions 53 times in the last week. The number of times spit hoods have been used on detainees has risen by nineteen.

Emergency legislation passed by the Oireachtas last month gave gardaí the power to direct people to go home if found breaking the rules on non-essential travel.

To date, they’ve used the powers 192 times, including a combination of arrests or incidents where a person’s name was taken for consultation with the DPP on whether to charge them.

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New figures on the use of spit hoods have also been issued. Up to the 2nd of May, detainees were masked with the mesh and fabric hoods 28 times.

The new figure, which takes account of incidents up to the ninth of this month, is 47.

There have been 64 incidents of spitting or coughing at members of the force since details were first released early in April.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has criticised the use of the masks — while the Policing Authority has also voiced concerns.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris says the masks are a lawful use of force and a last resort to protect officers where there is clear evidence of spitting or a threat to spit.

– Gardaí invoke regulations 192 times from hundreds of thousands of interactions
– Pre-existing enforcement powers used in 1,432 incidents
– 64 incidents of spitting and/or coughing against members of An Garda Síochána.
– Over 21,500 COVID-relating vetting applications processed – turnaround time one day – no vetting backlog

Commissioner Drew Harris said, “We thank the public for the continued high level of compliance with the health guidelines. Working together, we can reduce the spread of COVID-19 to help protect our family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.

“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.

“Recent independent surveys show very high levels of public satisfaction with how An Garda Síochána is operating in this challenging situation. This is testament to the work being done by Garda personnel across the country in difficult circumstances.”

From 8 April until 9 May 2020 inclusive, there were 64 incidents of spitting and/or coughing against members of An Garda Síochána.

From 8 April until 9 May 2020 inclusive, members of An Garda Síochána had to use anti-spit guards 47 times.

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’.

Anti-spit guards are a lawful use of force and are currently on issue to other police services internationally.

Commissioner Harris said, “Unfortunately, we continue to see these disgusting and despicable spitting and coughing attacks on our personnel. 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.”