People breaching Covid-19 travel restrictions now face €100 fine

Gardaí receive range of new powers to enforce coronavirus measures

Gardaí have received a range of enew Covid-19 enforcement powers. Photograph: Stephen Collins/ Collins/ File

Gardaí have received a range of enew Covid-19 enforcement powers. Photograph: Stephen Collins/ Collins/ File

 

Gardaí received a range of new Covid-19 enforcement powers on Monday, including the power to fine people engaging in non-essential travel.

Under the new offence guidelines, taxi drivers can now be fined for failing to ensure passengers wear a face covering in their vehicle. Retail workers and managers can also be fined for failing to wear a mask while working.

Those found in breach of the travel restrictions can be issued a fixed charge penalty notice (FCPN) of €100. Those in breach of mask regulations can be fined €80.

The ability to fine retail customers and commuters for failing to wear masks in designated areas came into force a month ago. Implementation of travel restrictions fines were delayed until this week as the Garda upgraded the necessary IT support systems.

According to Section 31A of the Health Act 1947 “an applicable person shall not leave his or her place of residence without reasonable excuse”.

From Monday, a person may be subject to a €100 fine they engage in non-essential travel and refuse to comply with the direction of a Garda to return home.

A list of 21 “reasonable excuses” are set out in the guidance issued to gardaí on Monday. These include shopping, essential work, education and healthcare. People fleeing domestic violence are also exempt from the limit.

People may also leave their home to exercise but only within 5km of their residence. Fines can be appealed through the Garda website.

Gardaí must continue to engage in the “Four Es”, an internal Garda circular states. “Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce. Remember that enforcement should only be used when necessary and proportionate.

“If you suspect that a person is non-compliant you should encourage them to comply. Provide individuals with every opportunity to comply. If the first 3 Es don’t work, then move to enforcement.”

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said on Monday it is each person’s “duty as a citizen” to desist from non-essential travel.

“An Garda Síochána continues to see significant compliance by the public with Public Health Regulations, however we also continue to see some activity which is in contravention of these regulations introduced to stop the current spread of Covid-19 and protect our communities.”

Until today Gardaí only had the power to refer people breaking travel restrictions to the Director of Public Prosecutions for criminal charges. Alongside FCPNs, this power will still be an option for gardaí “where more appropriate”.

On Monday, the Garda released a summary of people prosecuted to date in the courts for breaching the travel restrictions.

These include a Cavan man fined €150 and a man in Leitrim who was jailed for two months. In Tipperary a man was fined €350 after being caught breaching the travel restrictions twice at the same location in a two hour period.