Organising a house party will come with a €500 fine under a fine system published on Tuesday.
While the system came into effect on Sunday, it was not published until today as the statutory instrument is signed into law by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly some four weeks after the Bill which paved the way for the fines was passed.
Under the fine system, organising an event which breaches the guidelines will come with a fine of €500 while attending such an event will carry a fine of €150.
The power of policing the fines will lie with An Garda Síochána, though they will have no power to enter a private home. Gardaí will also be able to move on people believed to be loitering or on their way to a party. If the person refuses they will be fined.
The legislation allows for five types of offences:
- Non-penal – These are for measures which are included in the regulations as not allowed, but which carry no penalty.
- Penal – If a person is prosecuted in court for an offence, the maximum fines or prison sentence decided by the judge, under the new system of tiered penalties, depends on whether it is for a first, second or third or subsequent offence.
- Relevant provision – This allows for licensed premises to be shut for the day, or for longer in the case of further offences.
- Fixed penalty provisions – For certain offences, the Garda has the option of giving a person a fixed payment notice. The person can pay the fixed payment notice within 28 days to avoid prosecution. Non-payment in the specified time means the person can be prosecuted.
- Dwelling event provisions – Gardaí have additional powers to direct people to leave the vicinity of a dwelling if they have a reasonable suspicion that an event in contravention of regulations is going on. A person who does not comply with a direction from An Garda Síochána can be fined up to €1,000 or jailed for one month or both.
The fixed penalty notices are: Organising an event, which comes with a €500 fine, attending such an event (€150), breaching travel guidance (€100) and not wearing a face covering (€80).
A joint statement from the Departments of Health and Justice said the measures were necessary due to a lack of adequate powers.
"The only enforcement power available previously when people violated regulations under the 1947 Health Act was a ‘Penal Provision’. Under a penal provision, the maximum penalty was a fine of up to €2,500 and/or six months in prison, on conviction in court by a judge.
"The Government decided that a more flexible and proportionate system of sanctions was required for offences and breaches of the regulations," the statement said.
"An Garda Síochána will now roll out the introduction of enforcement on these measures. Now that the wording of the regulations has been finalised, the necessary adjustments to the relevant systems can be made over the coming week to allow the fixed penalty system accommodate these additional offences."