17 November 2020
There has been an impassioned response to video footage of people drinking in public as the country lives under level 5 restrictions. That response includes a proposal to introduce an €80 fine for offenders.
ICCL is opposed to pairing criminal justice with public health guidelines. The evidence is that advice, encouragement and social cohesion will see better results for compliance with the public health guidelines. Plus there are a number of problems with introducing any new fines, as follows:
1. There is no need for new laws
- Laws against drinking in public, and on public order and public nuisance, already exist
- There are already regulations in place to deal with pubs who violate public health guidelines
- The last set of fines proposed have not even been introduced yet.
2. It fits the pattern of reactive and rushed laws
- One incident, which was dispersed quickly, is leading to immediate and reactive drafting of regulations.
- We have seen previously that the Department of Health introducing criminal regulations in a rush leads to mistakes. This is an abuse of their powers under the Emergency Health Act.
- We will be left with a body of unnecessary and invasive laws which set dangerous precedents for our civil liberties.
3. ICCL and others have previously made suggestions for better process to avoid these problems:
- Advance consultation
- Political scrutiny
- Advance publication of regulations