Covid-19 outbreak among midlands gardaí delays criminal cases

Outbreak in Portlaoise leads to several District Court cases being adjourned

A Covid-19 outbreak at Portlaoise Garda Síochána contributed to an unusual number of case adjournments at Laois District Court last week.

Several cases involving a number of defendants, including one man accused of a series of thefts from cars, were adjourned from last Tuesday’s list as a result of a number of investigating gardaí becoming close contacts of Covid-19 cases and isolating as they awaited test results.

A legal source described as “highly unusual” the scale of the disruption to the cases coming before the court last Tuesday due to exposure of involved parties to coronavirus.

Garda sources told The Irish Times there had been an outbreak of Covid-19 in recent weeks in the Laois division and that court cases had been adjourned because of the outbreak.

However, the same sources said the unavailability of some civilian witnesses, also due to Covid-19, had contributed to the situation.

Five parties

In relation to one defendant, five parties who were allegedly victims of thefts along with a number of investigating gardaí were all unavailable to attend because they were either Covid-positive or close contacts of infected people and restricting their movements.

During Tuesday's hearing of cases, one garda told Judge Catherine Staines that there had been a Covid-19 outbreak in the Garda station.

The latest figures on Covid-19 incidence rates by locality show that Portlaoise had the second-highest rate of infections in the country in the most recently fortnightly period.

Portlaoise had incidence rate of 2,091 cases per 100,000 population, amounting to one in every 48 people in the town for the two-week period to December 13th.

Waterford

Only Portlaw-Kilmacthomas in Co Waterford had a higher incidence rate.

In reply to queries, Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, said the adjournment of the cases in criminal proceedings before the District Court was "a matter for the presiding judge".

It added: “An Garda Síochána maintains effective operational resilience. Covid-19 has not impacted on frontline Garda services at this time, although the current impact of Covid-19 is more significant at this time.”

The weekly Covid-19 outbreaks do not include figures on the number of outbreaks affecting Garda stations or other named State bodies or agencies.