TODAY’S GOBSMACKING REVELATIONS that there was systemic recording of both incoming and outgoing calls to Garda stations around the country has sparked a major inquiry.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today that the Government was first made aware by the Attorney General of the breadth of recordings on Sunday – and the fact that the recordings dated back as far as the 1980s.
This “new information” however won’t surprise anyone who will have noted a report by the Garda Ombudsman relating to a case in Waterford in 2010.
Academic and journalist Elaine Byrne retweeted a message from a Tim Price on Twitter, pointing out that the recording of incoming and outcoming calls from a Garda station had previously been highlighted in a court case:
That case – although not the case referred to in today’s Government statement on how the systemic recordings came to light – shows that illegal recording of calls to and from Garda stations is a matter of public record.
In 2010, Anthony Holness of Waterford made a complaint that he had been assaulted by gardai in the city. That case went to trial in 2011, two gardai were jailed for harming Holness when he was being arrested; another garda was given a suspended sentence for perverting the course of justice.
In June of last year, GSOC claimed that gardai had not co-operated with the watchdog’s investigation into the claims – and, as reported in this TheJournal.ie article from that time, “was also critical of Waterford Garda station for illegally recording telephone conversations and called on Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to immediately review procedures”.
The full report from GSOC can be read here.
This is the most important passage (bold text by TheJournal.ie):
During the course of the trial the lawfulness or otherwise of the Garda Síochána at Waterford Garda Station recording incoming and outgoing calls on their public lines, and the admission of the evidence obtained during the use of such practices became the subject of protracted legal argument.
On the 29th of January 2010, shortly after the arrest of Mr Holness, there was telephone communication between certain of the accused. These calls were recorded on the Garda Síochána recording system and a recording was provided to GSOC. This recording was offered in evidence by the DPP. Objections were raised by the Defence. 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.
This requirement was deemed to have not been met on this occasion. The court ruled that the evidence obtained in those calls was inadmissible.
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.
Despite this admonition in June of last year, Taoiseach Kenny said today in the Dáil that the system of recording incoming and outgoing calls at a large number of Garda stations stayed in place until November last year, with the Government only being informed of the extend of this practice this Sunday, and an inquiry launched only this afternoon.
This evening, a government spokesperson said they were not aware of any discussion in relation to the report in question at government level or whether Justice Minister Alan Shatter was aware of it when it was published last year.
Several queries to the Department of Justice about if and what Shatter knew about the report and whether he discussed it with the Garda Commissioner were not immediately returned.
- additional reporting Hugh O’Connell
First published 4.46pm
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