On Tuesday 7th April 2020, Minister for Health, Simon Harris, signed off on new powers allowing Gardaí to arrest and prosecute anyone refusing to comply with instructions to avoid non-essential travel or exercise further than 2km from their home.
Now where a member of An Garda Síochána believes that you have contravened any of the penal provisions regarding staying at home, they can direct you to take such steps as they consider necessary to comply with the regulations. Again, the regulations note that you can leave your home to;
shop for essential food and household goods
attend medical appointments, collect medicine or other health products
care for children, older people or other vulnerable people - this excludes social family visits
exercise outdoors - within 2 kilometres of your home and only with people from your own household - keeping 2 metres between you and other people
travel to work if you provide an essential service - practising social distancing
It will therefore only be an offence to disobey the Garda’s instructions where they have directed you to take steps to comply with the regulations. An Garda Síochána must give the person an opportunity to comply with the regulations.
These powers allow Gardaí to arrest anyone who refuses to comply with these regulations. Any person charged with an offence under this section can face up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of up to €2,500 or both, upon conviction.
The powers will apply until 12 April 2020.
This is without a doubt an extraordinary time in history. It is vital that people continue to work together in solidarity and observe the advice given. It is also advisable that these powers are used only as a last resort and lifted at the earliest opportunity.
We echo the sentiments of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (link here) that given the nature and extent of these extraordinary police powers, “it is essential that is recorded and monitored as a safeguard against their abuse and to ensure they are used as minimally as possible, if at all. No implementation should take place before there is clear operational guidance to ensure a sparing and consistent implementation of these powers. The Policing Authority should also be given a clear and robust monitoring role.”