Statement published on ICCL website, 8 June 2020 – accessible here
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has welcomed the decriminalisation of the restrictions on personal liberties in the new regulations that came into force today. ICCL has been calling for the separation of health advice from criminal law since the outset of the public health emergency, which we considered opened the door to disproportionate responses. Last week, we said any extension of emergency garda powers would be “inappropriate and unworkable”.
ICCL’s Senior Research and Policy Officer Doireann Ansbro , said
“We are glad to see that the government is removing criminal penalties for the exercise of rights. Any limits on rights in health emergencies must be demonstrably necessary and proportionate to the aim of protecting public health. We saw no evidence that continued criminalisation and prosecution in relation to public health advice was justified or likely to be effective.
We all should continue to follow public health advice but law abiding citizens can now do so with more confidence, in the knowledge that potential criminal sanctions are no longer hanging over them.”
ICCL is glad to see a phased return to policing by consent, which we have called for on numerous occasions since the outset of this crisis. The World Health Organisation is also clear that fostering a sense of cooperation and trust yields better results than a more authoritarian approach. Advice, cooperation and trust must be the hallmark of the next phase of our response to Covid-19.
We note that organising events for more than 15 people will still attract criminal penalties. We hope to see a lifting of these penal provisions as soon as public health advice allows.
“Organising an event of over 15 people is still punishable by prison or a fine. So there’s still work to do. The longer the pandemic goes on, the more the government must make every effort to facilitate our fundamental rights, including the right to protest. Last week the organisers of a Black Lives Matter protest were threatened with prosecution. At ICCL it was clear to us that this was going too far. We released a strong statement in support of the organisers, who had made every effort to co-operate with gardaí and facilitate social distancing. It speaks to the depth of feeling and the level of racism experienced by people of colour in Ireland that so many turned out to what was supposed to be a small, impromptu gathering”
Right to protest – Know Your Rights guideline here