Covid-19: Delay in new fines system for house parties and masks offences

Regulations won’t be enforceable by gardaí until the end of next week as practical work needs to be completed with both the State prosecutor and the Courts Service.
Covid-19: Delay in new fines system for house parties and masks offences

Garda commissioner Drew Harris: Enforcement will continue to be the last stage of the '4Es' approach — the first three being engage, encourage, and explain. File picture

A new fines system for house parties and non-wearing of masks will not come into force for another week because of administrative hurdles that need to be overcome.

Last Tuesday, Stephen Donnelly, the health minister, finally published regulations implementing much-discussed legislation enacted almost a month ago.

However, the regulations won’t be enforceable by gardaí until the end of next week as practical work needs to be completed with both the State prosecutor and the Courts Service.

In addition, ICT changes need to be made to Garda systems to enable members issue fixed charge penalty notices, or fines.

Speaking at a public meeting of the Policing Authority on Thursday, Garda commissioner Drew Harris said the fines would probably be in operation at the “tail end of next week”.

Sources said this was an “administrative and technical” matter, as time was needed to turn the regulations into enforceable offences.

“We have to create the offence, with the wording of it, and we are working with the DPP on that,” explained a source.

“We have to create the offence code, and we are working with the Courts Service on that.” 

Once those steps have been taken, the necessary technical work has to be done on Garda ICT systems.

“We hope to have it in place by the end of next week,” said the source. 

The new laws don’t give gardaí any powers to enter homes.

People who don’t pay their fines face being prosecuted in the courts.

Under the new laws, people attending house parties in breach of Covid regulations could be fined €150. Those organising a house party, or a party outside a dwelling, face fines of €500.

Separately, anyone not wearing a face mask on public transport or inside certain premises can be hit with an €80 fine.

People breaching travel restrictions could face a €100 fine.

Mr Harris said enforcement will continue to be the last stage of the '4Es' approach — the first three being “engage, encourage, and explain”.

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