Keith Swanick

Dr. Keith Swanick proposes law to tackle theft or damage to Life Saving Equipment

Keith Swanick

New legislation is being drafted by Dr. Keith Swanick Fianna Fáil Health and Mental Health Spokesperson in Seanad Éireann, which would introduce a new offence in relation to the theft or damage of life saving equipment such as defibrillators and lifebuoys.

In Ireland approximately 13 people die every day from cardiac arrest and the overwhelming majority of those who die are busy going about their daily lives, out and about in communities all over Ireland. Having a readily accessible defibrillator, which can deliver an electric shock to the heart muscle through the chest wall in order to restore a normal heart rate, is a piece of life saving equipment. Over recent years there has been a very large number of automatic external defibrillators (AED) installed for maximum accessibility. The AED is a portable defibrillator designed to be automated such that it can be used by persons without substantial medical training who are responding to a cardiac emergency.

According to Senator Dr. Keith Swanick, “Over Christmas everyone was shocked to see the outrageous display of thuggery where three men were caught on CCTV camera destroying a defibrillator in Arklow, Co. Wicklow. Unfortunately this type of behaviour is not isolated and there needs to be a much greater deterrent to ensure that people think twice before interfering with, stealing or damaging life saving equipment.”

“The Life Saving Equipment Bill 2017 is currently being drafted and it will be formally published shortly. The legislation, if enacted, introduces a specific new offence of interfering with life saving equipment, with strict penalties including custodial sentencing of up to 5 years. It is our intention to seek a penalty of up to €50,000 in this legislation, for those convicted of this thuggish behaviour” said the Castlerea native.

“If people know that a custodial sentence of up to 5 years, or indeed a fine of up to €50,000 could arise on foot of stealing a lifebuoy or damaging a defibrillator, they might think twice. Every week approximately two people die in Ireland from drowning and a missing lifebuoy has regularly been cited. Cork City Council for example had to replace three hundred lifebuoys last year, because of theft or damage.”

Dr. Keith Swanick went on to say “This legislation that I am drafting is designed to allow the Oireachtas send a strong signal that there can be no tolerance for damaging life saving equipment. Severe financial penalties as well as custodial sentencing options will be contained in the Bill. The draft legislation is a Seanad Éireann Private Members Bill and I’ve worked with a number of Fianna Fáil Oireachtas colleagues, including Wicklow T.D., Deputy Pat Casey and Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan to ensure that the legislation is robust enough to act as a serious deterrent. Ultimately it will be up to the Oireachtas to decide, but the proposal to introduce a custodial sentence as well as a fine of up to €50,000, outlines the seriousness with which these offences need to be viewed.”

“The defibrillator in question in Arklow was only there a number of weeks after it was installed by CFR Ireland, the National Community First Responder Network which is an entirely voluntary organisation and registered charity. In the aftermath of the incident in Arklow, Dr. David Menzies, Medical Director of CFR Ireland as well as John Fitzgerald, Co-Chair of CFR Ireland spoke out about the incident and in doing so highlighted the fact that lives are being put in danger. They highlighted the need for a strong legislative deterrent, including large fines and jail sentences. I fully support this and this draft legislation seeks to do just that.”