Gardaí back drug testing at Electric Picnic but warn 'no amnesty'

Gardaí back drug testing at Electric Picnic but warn 'no amnesty'

Detective Superintendent Sé McCormack, Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. Picture: Moya Nolan

There is no “amnesty” for possessing drugs at this weekend’s Electric Picnic, the Garda’s top drug officer has warned, ahead of the piloting of the country’s first State drug testing service.

Detective Superintendent Sé McCormack of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau said the “law hasn’t changed” and that possession of drugs for personal use is illegal — and anyone caught at the festival faces prosecution.

He said An Garda Síochána supports the HSE initiative, in which medics and scientists, operating under special licences, will be able to collect and check tablets and powders that have been put into “surrender bins” at medical tents.

Under the trial, people receiving treatment in medical tents can voluntarily dispose of drugs into the bins, for example, in situations where they are experiencing negative effects from drugs.

HSE scientists can check what substances are in drugs and see if they contain other and, possibly, more harmful, chemicals or if they are more potent than the average strength for the drug.

This will enable the HSE to issue information and warnings to drug users at the three-day festival, which starts on Friday.

The HSE has been proposing such checking since 2019, but has had to convince gardaí and the Department of Justice that it could be done within the current laws. It secured agreement last week.

“The law hasn’t changed,” Det Supt McCormack told the Irish Examiner. “There is no change in legislation to facilitate the possession of illegal or controlled drugs.” 

He took exception to the word “amnesty” in referring to the bins. “Some agencies have been using the word ‘amnesty’. There is no amnesty bin. They are surrender bins.” 

This, he said, is to make it clear there is no amnesty or exemption from the law, including in cases where people tell gardaí they are going to the medical tent to hand over their drugs.

“There is no defence, ‘I’m on my way to the tent’,” he said. “There is no part of the ground that says it's OK to hold illegal drugs. If you have illegal drugs in your possession and you're stopped and searched, and you're found in possession, then consideration has to be given to prosecution.” 

Det Supt McCormack said gardaí will not be watching who goes in or out of the medical tent.

He said the drug monitoring is a “health-led” initiative. “That’s what the testing is about. We're working with our HSE partners. And it's government policy. So, we're happy to do it.”

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd