herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Gardai follow The Wire with tracking devices

THE number of wiretaps used by gardai without court permission is double the number of authorised traces.

A new investigation by High Court Judge Mr Justice Kevin Feeney found that gardai were given the go-ahead from their own supervisors to use tracking devices which didn't require legal permission.

Like a scene out of cop drama The Wire, the gardai were able to track suspected criminals without applying to the court -- but it is understood that this happened less than 100 times last year.

The new report found that the number of times gardai used special emergency powers -- known as 'section seven' -- to plant devices which didn't need court approval rose to double figures within the space of a year.

But a number of requests from gardai to plant bugging devices were turned down by the courts, after they were deemed too excessive.

Gardai, the Defence Forces and the Revenue officials are all entitled to break into private homes and plant recording devices.

This extraordinary permission can be obtained in emergency situations but generally action must be granted by a District Court Judge and can last up to three months.

A thorough investigation into the use of the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act was outlined in the report.

The head of the garda's Crime and Security section, Assistant Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan, has the final say on whether detectives will get the green light for the surveillance application.

The judge found that as gardai plan to introduce a written protocol it would be "unlikely that there will be a substantial number of cases where applications by individual gardai will be refused".

The review covered the period between July 12, 2009, and July 31, 2010.

But the full report is not made public as under section 13 of Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009, the disclosure of any information in connection with the operation of the Act is prohibited.

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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