Gardaí are to send a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) following an incident in Longford town last week involving a group of men who were suspected to be in breach of Covid travel restrictions and public health guidelines.
The Leader understands officers were called to Longford Shopping Centre by security personnel last Thursday evening after a male allegedly refused to wear a face mask upon entering the complex.
It’s believed the man, after initially rejecting calls by staff to follow public health etiquette, began coughing at the self service checkout area of Tesco before attempting to leave.
During the course of those attempts, the man was approached for a second time by security who, in turn, contacted gardaí.
Upon their arrival at the scene at Tesco Car Park after 7pm, three males were stopped and spoken to in a car.
It’s believed two of those were spoken to on suspicion of being outside of their five kilometre travel restriction zone under the Government’s Level 5 Covid-19 exclusion zones.
The third male, who allegedly refused to wear a face mask while inside the shopping centre was also addressed by officers.
A garda spokesperson confirmed the incident to the Leader on Monday and said a file was now being prepared for the DPP to decide if any formal charges can be brought against the trio.
Concerns surrounding the State’s powers in ensuring the universal wearing of face masks in public has, and continues to be the source of much debate.
Back in August, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said gardaí would only be called “as a last resort” to deal with people who refuse to wear face masks in shops.
Face coverings became mandatory in all retail outlets and shopping centres from August 10 last.
Individuals who do receive a fixed penalty notice have 28 days to pay in order to avoid prosecution.
Last Thursday’s incident is not the first time gardaí have been forced to deal with suspected non compliance of public health guidelines.
Four months ago, the Leader revealed how officers arrested and detained a man after allegedly refusing to wear a face covering while also walking through Longford Shopping Centre.
The suspect, who was from eastern Europe, later gave a voluntary statement and was released without charge ahead of a file being sent to the DPP’s office in Dublin.