Monday 24 October 2016

'Variations' found in phone calls at garda stations, says judge


Mr Justice Nial Fennelly
Mr Justice Nial Fennelly

The judge investigating the garda tapes controversy has found variations in the type of phone calls recorded at garda stations around the country.

In an interim report, Mr Justice Nial Fennelly said recordings from between 1980 and 1995 were intended solely for 999 calls or garda radio traffic.

However, he found evidence of "a variation between stations as to what was being recorded" between 1995 and 2013.


Mr Justice Fennelly stopped short of saying what the specific reasons were for these later recordings, or whether any of them were made illegally.

It is likely to be a further 10 months before he publishes his views on these issues after Taoiseach Enda Kenny agreed to a request for an extension of the Fennelly Commission until September 30 next year.

The move sees the controversy parked until well after next year's General Election. The commission had originally been asked to report by the end of December.

Mr Justice Fennelly has also sought to beef up his staff with the addition of three junior counsel, at a cost of €312,000.

The interim report revealed three garda commissioners have been interviewed, with a fourth due to give evidence later this month.

The controversy first arose last year following the discovery of phone call recordings at Bandon Garda Station involving gardai, journalists and witnesses relating to the investigation into the unsolved murder of French filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Mr Justice Fennelly said over 45,000 recorded telephone calls to and from Bandon Garda Station were examined by gardai, but less than 1pc of these were considered relevant to the murder investigation.

He said the commission was seeking to establish whether the recordings disclosed evidence of unlawful or improper conduct by gardai investigating the murder.

The interim report said telephone recording systems were installed at the Garda Communications Centre in Dublin Castle, and later Harcourt Square, as well as divisional headquarters around the country, between January 1980 and November 2013. A digital audio tape system (DAT) operated between 1995 and 2008.

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