Friday 21 October 2016

Eight probes conducted into identity of journalists' sources

Published 20/01/2016 | 02:30

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerlad speaks to the media at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerlad speaks to the media at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Eight separate investigations are currently being carried out by either GSOC or the gardaí into the identity of sources used by journalists as they researched articles.

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Seven out of the eight probes focus on journalists who mainly cover crime and security issues.

But none of the so-called leaks involved information which might threaten the security of the State or could be deemed to interfere with or prejudice ongoing inquiries.

Three journalists, one of whom, Conor Feehan, is employed by Independent News and Media, are satisfied that their phone records were accessed by GSOC investigators - and as a result gardaí, whose names were on the phone call records, were questioned on why they were in contact.

GSOC was set up in 2007 to deal with complaints from the public about the behaviour of gardaí and provide an independent oversight of the force.

Meanwhile, there are no suspicions that the gardaí themselves accessed journalists' phones as part of their inquiries into leaks. But it is known that in some cases the gardaí have accessed the phones of members of the force, which they are legally entitled to do, and in that way establish where contacts have been made.

One of the GSOC probes is into a complaint by a friend of the late model, Katy French, in which he alleged information came from Garda sources.

Two journalists are the focus of that investigation.

Two more journalists are the subject of complaints by TD Clare Daly to GSOC in relation to publication of her arrest on suspicion of drink-driving. The suspicions were later established to be unfounded.

Another GSOC investigation is into a complaint by a former government minister about the publication of an allegation of child abuse against him.

GSOC also received a complaint from a member of an international crime gang about information relating to the gang appearing in media outlets.

One of the current Garda investigations involves the publication of reports that a number of people were to face criminal charges arising out of a protest at Jobstown, Tallaght, when Tánaiste Joan Burton and her assistant were detained in her car for over two hours.

In a separate case, which is not included in the list of eight investigations, 'Sunday World' journalist Nicola Tallant lodged a complaint with GSOC after she was told that her phone had been routinely monitored by a senior garda since 2010.

In each of their investigations, senior GSOC management appoint a special team to carry out inquiries and prepare a report for examination.

Where it is deemed appropriate, GSOC will submit a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In their investigations, senior Garda management appoint a high-ranking officer to head up a team.

Irish Independent

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