The Garda Commissioner has said the “reprehensible” spitting and coughing attacks on members of the gardaí show the challenges the force faces during the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures released today show that from April 8 to 25, there were 31 incidents of spitting and/or coughing against members the gardaí.
In the same time frame, gardaí had to use anti-spit guards 15 times.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said today: “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.”
Gardaí say that the anti-spit guards offer “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 gardaí have also said that there is “a high level of compliance with the public health guidelines at the many checkpoints”.
They said in a statement: “In a small number of cases, despite receiving a number of warnings, some individuals did not adhere to the guidelines and the regulations were used under the Health Act 1947- Section 31A- Temporary Restrictions (Covid19) Regulations 2020.”
They revealed that from April 8 (when the regulations came into effect) to 25, gardaí have invoked the regulations 76 times.
Of the 76 incidents, two were as a result of an instruction from a relevant medical professional as per the Act.
The gardaí added: “In addition, pre-existing enforcement powers were used in 760 incidents where other offences were highlighted in the course of COVID-19 operations.
They said these incidents ranges from drink driving detected at checkpoints to drug seizures and other public order offences.
“There remains a high level of compliance with the public health guidelines,” said the Commissioner.
"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.”