Since the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland in March, the Government has introduced a range of restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus such as asking people to stay at home and closing pubs and restaurants. During this time, the Gardaí have been given increased powers so that they can work to make sure people are obeying the restrictions in place.
What are my rights with the Gardaí during COVID-19
Emergency legislation was brought in during the pandemic that gave An Garda Síochána powers to enforce any regulations made by the Minister for Health to help stop the spread of COVID-19, including organising large gatherings and events.
Can the Gardaí stop me during COVID-19?
In normal times, the Gardaí do not have the power to stop anyone or ask anyone their name and address unless they have a particular reason to do so. For a few weeks during the lockdown (until the beginning of Phase 2), Gardaí were given permission to ask a person’s name and address without suspecting them of a crime and could legally arrest or fine a person for breaking restrictions (such as travelling more than 5k from your home). From June 8th Gardaí no longer have these powers when it comes to travel restrictions. Their role now is to educate and encourage people to follow the restrictions. They can also no longer ask for your name and address unless they suspect you of committing an ordinary crime. However, you can still be arrested or fined for organising an event of more than 15 people.
The use of Spit Hoods by the Gardaí
An Garda Síochána ordered 16,000 spit hoods to be used in the health crisis. Spit hoods are full hoods that cover the head and face of a person. They are generally forcibly put by police officers on a person where they believe there is a risk of the spread of disease through spitting, biting or coughing.
What does the law say about travelling into Ireland during the restrictions?
From Thursday the 28th of May, all passengers arriving into Ireland are legally required to complete a COVID-19 passenger locator form. This form means that travellers arriving into the country will have to tell the State where they will be self-isolating for 14 days. Self-isolation means completely avoiding contact with others and is more strict than the restrictions currently in place for people living in Ireland. The form will remain in place until June 18th.
What happens if people refuse to fill out the form?
If people refuse to fill out the form they can face a fine of up to €2,500 or six months in prison, or both. If the Gardaí discover that a person has not quarantined for 14 days after entering the country, or if they give false information about where they are staying they can also face a fine of up to €2,500 or six months in prison, or both.
What can I do if I am mistreated by the Gardaí during COVID-19?
If you feel your rights have been mistreated by the Gardaí during the COVID-19 pandemic there are supports that can help. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is Ireland’s leading independent human rights campaigning organisation. They monitor, educate and campaign to secure human rights for everyone in Ireland.
Find out more about the ICCL.
Need more information?
Would you like more information? Maybe you would like to talk through your own situation? Get in touch through our online chat system for 16 to 25 year olds – Monday to Friday 4pm to 8pm.