Gardaí seek travel prosecutions after Drew Harris orders crackdown

Gardaí seek travel prosecutions after Drew Harris orders crackdown

if gardaí determine a passenger's journey is not an essential trip, they can be directed under the Health Act to go home — and if they don’t comply, they will be told they are liable to be  prosecuted. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins

Gardaí have referred cases since the weekend to the DPP seeking prosecutions against foreign travellers following a crackdown ordered by the Garda Commissioner.

Drew Harris directed a tougher approach last Friday, whereby international passengers deemed by gardaí as not engaging in essential travel would be liable to criminal prosecution, in addition to a fine.

Sources said that — while there appeared to be a “significant reduction” in the number of people travelling abroad over the weekend — officers had sought the permission of the DPP to prosecute people who had insisted on continuing with their travels despite being issued with a direction by gardaí not to do so.

Passengers ordered to return home

In these cases, officers attached to the Garda National Immigration Bureau issue a direction to passengers under the Health Act not to engage in non-essential foreign travel and to return home.

The gardaí inform the passenger that if they insist on continuing on their journey they face a prosecution and a summons before the district court.

“Certainly, there have been a number of referrals over the weekend to the DPP seeking prosecution for failing to obey a garda direction,” said one garda source.

Gardaí expect to have data by the end of the week in their Friday update on Covid-19 fines.

Gardaí quiz people at airports

International travellers at airports are quizzed by GNIB officers at the departure gate.

“You are met by a garda and asked for your reason to travel and they will assess if it is a reasonable excuse for foreign travel,” said a garda source, “and, if you convince the garda, there are no issues, as there are people who have essential reasons for travel.

“If the gardaí determine you don’t have an essential reason for travelling you are told you will get an immediate €500 fine that will be there for you on your return.” 

Since Friday, there is now an additional measure.

The next step now is if gardaí determine your journey is not an essential trip, you are given a direction under the Health Act telling you to go home and if you don’t comply and continue you will be told you will be liable to prosecution. 

Gardaí at airports are reporting a fall off over the weekend in holidaymakers posing as people taking essential foreign travel.

Reduction in the number of departures

“The reports are that while the airport is still busy, there has been a significant reduction in the number of departures out and that a significant number of passengers are not turning up for flights booked over the weekend,” said a source. “That would indicate people are heeding public health advice.” 

Gardaí believe that the appearance of Commissioner Harris on the Late Late Show last Friday night — during which he spoke of the new policy — played a role in influencing travellers.

The Government has said it will increase the €500 fine for non-essential foreign travel to €2,000 but this requires amendments to legislation.

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