Sunday 21 December 2014

Evidence excluded in trial of gardai because of taped calls

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 26/03/2014 | 02:30

Complaint: Anthony Holness. Photo Patrick Browne
Complaint: Anthony Holness. Photo Patrick Browne

THE practice of gardai recording incoming and outgoing calls resulted in evidence being excluded at the trial of three gardai accused of assaulting a man.

Anthony Holness was arrested after he was seen urinating on a street in Waterford in 2010.

He later made a complaint that he had been assaulted by gardai.

Waterford Garda Station recorded incoming and outgoing calls on their public lines, including the line that received 999 calls.

The admission of the evidence obtained during such calls became the subject of protracted legal argument during the 2011 trial and was subsequently examined by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

On January 29, 2010, shortly after the arrest of Anthony Holness, there was telephone communication between certain of the accused gardai. These calls were recorded on the garda recording system and a recording was provided to the GSOC.

The DPP sought to admit the recording in evidence into the trial, but a number of the defence teams raised objections to the admissibility of the recording.

Gardai claimed that they did not know the calls were being recorded.

But this was disputed and, in the absence of the jury, it was argued that there were white stickers on the phone indicating calls were being recorded.

The court held that the practice engaged in by the gardai at Waterford Garda Station of recording all incoming and outgoing calls on a particular phone line was in breach of a 1993 law which requires that at least one of the parties to a phone call has consented to it being recorded.

The requirement was deemed to have not been met on this occasion and the trial judge ruled that the evidence obtained in those calls was inadmissible.

In its June 2013 report on the issue, the GSOC said: "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".

Irish Independent

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