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GSOC: Report about gardaí illegally recording calls not sent to Shatter – but did go to Commissioner

A report outlining concerns about the recording of incoming and outgoing calls at a garda station in Waterford published last year was not sent to the Department of Justice.

Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commissioner offices in Dublin (File photo)
Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commissioner offices in Dublin (File photo)
Image: Photocall Ireland

THE GARDA OMBUDSMAN (GSOC) has confirmed that a report outlining concerns about the legality of garda stations recording incoming and outgoing calls was not sent to the Department of Justice last summer, but was sent to the Garda Commissioner.

The report published in June of last year outlined GSOC’s criticism of the recordings of calls in 2010 as part of its investigation into the case of Anthony Holness. However, the Department of Justice said this morning that the Ombudsman was not obligated to furnish it with the report, confirming it was not received.

A spokesperson for GSOC explained that it would not have been sent to the Department, or Alan Shatter, as it was a report based on a complaint from a member of the public, and not a referral from the Minister.

The spokesperson said the report would have gone to the Garda Commissioner, noting that it was received on this occasion by an assistant commissioner.

Sources close to Shatter say he was not aware of this report and that GSOC was not obligated to notify the Minister of its existence.

The GSOC spokesperson did point out that it was published on the GSOC website as it was felt that it should be in the public knowledge. A source close to Shatter last night described the report as ‘a press release’ and insisted that it did not come across Shatter’s desk last year.

In 2010, Holness of Waterford made a complaint that he had been assaulted by gardai in the city. That case went to trial in 2011, two gardaí were jailed for harming Holness when he was being arrested; another garda was given a suspended sentence for perverting the course of justice.

GSOC claimed that gardaí had not co-operated with the watchdog’s investigation into the claims and, as reported by TheJournal.ie at the time, “was also critical of Waterford Garda station for illegally recording telephone conversations and called on Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to immediately review procedures”.

According to the report, it was during the Holness case that the court held that the practice engaged in by the gardaí at Waterford Garda Station of recording all incoming and outgoing calls on a particular phone line was “in breach of the relevant statute on the recording of telephone communications, which requires that at least one of the parties to a phone call has consented to its being recorded”.

The court ruled that the evidence obtained in those calls, which was being used by the Director of Public Prosecutions in its case, was inadmissible.

The report also noted: “On consideration of the ruling of the court the Garda Commissioner may wish to re-evaluate his practice regarding the recording of such calls and the consents required if it is to be permissible to use such recordings in evidence.”

Read: This isn’t the first time illegal recording of Garda station calls has been noted…

June 2013: Gardaí did not cooperate with watchdog investigation…again

Catch up: Everything you need to know about GardaGate in one place >

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Hugh O'Connell

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