Sunday 16 June 2019

Thompson's lawyer says CCTV breaches his 'right to privacy'

Freddie Thompson has denied the murder of David Douglas, who was shot dead in 2016
Freddie Thompson has denied the murder of David Douglas, who was shot dead in 2016

Freddie Thompson's legal team is seeking to have CCTV footage thrown out of his trial for the murder of David Douglas because they claim it was illegally created and breaches his right to privacy.

Mr Thompson's lawyer has also questioned the identification of the accused from CCTV footage, arguing "not even his own mother" would recognise him from the "grey blur".

Mr Thompson (37), of Loreto Road, Maryland, Dublin 8, denies the murder of Mr Douglas (55), who was shot six times at his partner's shop in Bridgefoot Street, Dublin 8, on July 1, 2016.

It is the State's case that Mr Thompson provided logistical support in the planning and execution of a murder and was the driver of one of two "spotter" vehicles.


Two detectives told the Special Criminal Court they had identified Mr Thompson in CCTV footage taken in the hours prior to the murder of Mr Douglas.

Detective Sergeant Adrian Whitelaw and Detective Garda Seamus O'Donovan both positively identified Mr Thompson as the driver of a silver Ford Fiesta at 10.48am at Merton Avenue, and at 3.53pm on Donore Avenue, on the day in question.

Defence lawyer Michael O'Higgins SC said the Data Protection Act provides for a process of registering CCTV systems and failure to do so was a criminal offence.

He said the operators of CCTV must also alert people to the fact that recording is in place and indicate the uses to which the recording can be put.

The court has already heard from nearly 30 operators of the CCTV footage, and nearly all were unaware they should be registered with the Data Protection Commissioner.

As a result, Mr O'Higgins added, gardai were "harvesting material unlawfully obtained".

He argued the evidence had been "illegally created", and the CCTV was in breach of a citizen's, and his client's, constitutional right to privacy.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt put it to Mr O'Higgins the CCTV had not been unlawfully obtained by An Garda Siochana.

Mr O'Higgins said the law, in relation to the registration of CCTV, was not being complied with by CCTV operators and gardai were "getting the benefit of illegally-created evidence".

He claimed that gardai must be aware of this.

Mr O'Higgins also argued that any individual's movements, particularly in an urban area, can be readily tracked by linking CCTV cameras.

"This gives rise to an issue that it's an invasion into one's privacy," he said.

"By walking from A to B, and subsequently looking at cameras, you can find out what a person did, where they were, who they spoke to, and it is all recorded."

The lawyer further argued about the quality of the identification evidence, arguing at least one of the images of Mr Thompson was a "grey blur".

In his submission, prosecutor Sean Gillane SC said there "isn't an authority in the western world which supports what Mr O'Higgins is asking the court to do".


Mr Gillane said the Supreme Court had ruled, numerous times, that when investigating a crime, An Garda Siochana had a duty to get all the evidence.

He further argued that Mr Thompson had no reasonable expectation of privacy in these circumstances because there is "no privacy in a criminal offence".

"If a person puts a CCTV system in place in their home because they suspect their childminder is stealing, and the footage shows the childminder assaulting a child, can it be said the CCTV is an invasion of the childminder's privacy? I submit not," he said.

Mr Gillane further argued that when a person is in a public place they had "no reasonable expectation of privacy at all".

The trial continues.

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