Republic of Ireland news

Memo to be brought to Cabinet on increasing sentencing for assaults on Gardai

Justice Minister Simon Harris (PA)
Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Justice Minister Simon Harris is to bring a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday to increase the maximum sentence for assaulting a Garda from seven years to 12.

This will include the ramming of a Garda patrol car, he said.

Mr Harris was speaking at an event to launch the opening of a new office for the Dublin Metropolitan Region of An Garda Siochana at Dublin Castle.

Addressing the increase in anti-immigration protests this year and the “big challenges” in policing the capital, Mr Harris pledged his backing to the force in its strategy.

He said: “I want to let you know, we have your back when it comes to making sure you’re safe as you go about your duties.

“And what that means is passing legislation to provide Gardai with body cams so that our Gardai aren’t the only people at the protests without cameras and we’ll get that done.

“We’ll work with the Commissioner to make sure there’s a full rollout of body cams to all frontline Gardai.”

Mr Harris added: “Tomorrow, I will bring a memo to Cabinet to amend the law to ensure that if anybody dares to assault a Garda in this country that the maximum sentence is increased to 12 years and that this will include the ramming of a Garda vehicle.

“Because whilst we live in a country that massively respects the Gardai and we live in a country that has one of the greatest levels of confidence in a police force right across the European Union, we can never ever, ever tolerate anybody attacking a member of the frontline emergency services or a member of An Garda Siochana.”

He added that the proposals were about showing solidarity amid “an uptick in relation to attacks on members of the Gardai”, but added it’s also about “sending a message from the Oireachtas” about how seriously the people of Ireland take such attacks.

“We also need to live in a country where we don’t as politicians just wring our hands and condemn, though condemning is important, we actually need to update the laws to support the Gardai and that’s what I’ll endeavour to do.”

Mr Harris said that while there is respect for people’s right to peaceful protest, “there have been incidences where criminal activity has crept into these protests and we must never accept that”.

“It’s very easy for people to sit behind desks or people like me to go in front of microphones and second-guess the Gardai – I’ll never do that, because I trust your operational judgement,” he said.

“I trust you know where you’re at and I trust the Gardai in terms of being able to apply the laws of this land.”

Mr Harris, Minister for Higher and Further Education, is in charge of the Justice portfolio while his party colleague Helen McEntee is on maternity leave. Ms McEntee is due to return to the role next month.

Republic of Ireland news