Irish News

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Garda: I was bullied after exposing phone-tape abuse

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 02/04/2014|02:30

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

A RETIRED senior garda has claimed he was isolated and "bullied" after uncovering suspected abuse by gardai of phone intercept laws.

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The former detective sergeant, who is suing the Garda Commissioner and Justice Minister, has sought the disclosure of documents relating to phone taps obtained in the investigation of two criminals later convicted of serious crimes including subversive activities.

It is claimed that conversations between the convicted men and their lawyers were recorded – before and after their arrests – after gardai obtained warrants to monitor their phone contacts.

Conversations between solicitors and their clients are legally privileged and cannot be used as evidence in court.

The State has fought discovery of a broad range of security-sensitive documents in the High Court personal injuries action first lodged in 2007 – years before the current garda tapes controversy.

The crisis which erupted last week took a new turn yesterday when it emerged that a large number of phone calls between prisoners in the country's jails and their solicitors were also taped.

Details of the practice were first revealed in the Dail by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has ordered a report into how the the taping came about. It is now estimated that more than 2,800 calls between inmates and their solicitors were recorded even though prisoners are entitled to make phone calls in confidence to their solicitors.

The prison service say the recordings were inadvertent and were made in the cases of prisoners who had dealings with more than one solicitor.

But the disclosure that calls which were supposed to be private had been taped will add to the Government's embarrassment as it defends the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter against a motion of no confidence in the Dail.

The legal action being taken by the retired garda, who claims he was bullied after pointing out abuses, is being defended by the State.

The detective sergeant claims that these include "serious irregularities" relating to the way that applications for intercept warrants were being processed. These ranged from imprecise applications for warrants and warrants based on "scant" and incorrect information leading to the interception of phones belonging to innocent third parties.

He also says that he was concerned about suspected "abuse" of the Postal Packets and Telecommunications Act 1993 – which allows gardai to legally intercept phones – and raised concerns that the law was being used for an improper or unauthorised purpose.

He claims complaints raised by him, many in writing, led to him being "isolated, bullied and harassed" before he was transferred to another division.

RETIRED

The former garda, who retired on medical grounds shortly after his transfer, is said to have repeatedly sought advice, including legal advice, from his superiors after he brought the alleged irregularities to the attention of authorities.

Under the 1993 Act, it is not illegal for a person to record a call if he is party to that call.

However, recording a phone conversation between other people without their authorisation amounts to interception – a serious criminal offence attracting fines and a prison term of up to five years.

The justice minister can give authority to gardai, the army and the Revenue to intercept phones and other communications, but only if it is for the purposes of a specific criminal investigation or in the interests of the security of the State.

Irish Independent

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