People cannot not be prosecuted for attending indoor or outdoor gatherings deemed to breach the Covid-19 regulations, with only organisers or hosts regarded as culpable, Garda headquarters has informed its members.
In a notice sent to all personnel, Garda management summarises the current Covid-19 measures and outlines those that are merely guidelines and others that can be enforced under law, which is only a small number.
“It is only the event organiser who potentially commits an offence; there is no offence for attending an event,” the notice says of gatherings other than those in private dwellings.
Nobody at a gathering of more than six in a private dwelling, including the host, can be subject to enforcement by gardaí, the notice says.
In relation to the policing of pubs and restaurants that sell alcohol, the notice is not clear on who would face prosecution for breaching regulations on opening hours or for not serving food to customers drinking alcohol.
Gardaí could pursue any one of a number of people linked to such businesses including the “controller”, the “occupier” of a premises or the “manager”, the note states.
It says pubs can face enforcement action for staying open beyond closing time – 11.30pm Monday to Saturday and 11pm on Sundays – and that food and drink can only be served to people who are seated at a table.
It is also a breach if they cannot provide records of customers’ names, arrival times and contact details over the previous 28 days, which are gathered for contact-tracing purposes, to gardaí who visit to inspect the premises.
Gardaí have been told they must make a record on the force’s Pulse system of all pub inspections, even if a pub they visit is closed.
On gatherings in homes, members were told there should be no more than six guests from a maximum of three different households, not including the dwelling where the gathering takes place. Outdoor events should be limited to “groups of no more than 15”, the notice says. However, if gardaí find breaches of these measures, they have no enforcement options.
Some entertainment and cultural events are permitted once numbers in attendance do not exceed 50 people, but only if they take place in an auditorium with a stage and fixed seating rows: the National Concert Hall; cinemas; art galleries or museums.
However, none of the measures relating to the holding of these events is a penal provision meaning nobody can be prosecuted for breaching these measures.
Similarly, while weddings can go ahead if limited to 50 people or less, no enforcement options were available to the Garda if weddings were found in breach of this measure.
The notice says sporting events could still go ahead once they were “held for competitive sport reasons and authorised by a national governing body of sport or an educational institution”. Only those necessary for the event to go ahead are allowed to be present, the notice says.