Gardai seek to fingerprint everyone who is arrested
SENIOR garda officers want the powers to take fingerprints from all suspects who are arrested and taken to a station.
They called on Justice Minister Dermot Ahern yesterday to broaden the current legislation, which confines the taking of fingerprints to those detained in connection with an indictable offence carrying a minimum five-year sentence.
The officers spelled out the need for legislative change at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents in Dublin.
The conference also urged tighter restrictions in the circulation of lists containing the names, addresses and occupations of potential jurors in serious crime cases.
Association president Jim Smith said the lists should be available only to lawyers representing the prosecution and defence in a trial.
His comments come after a recent high profile gangland trial when personal details of potential jury members were discovered in the home of an associate of the accused.
Mr Smith told the minister: "This is an alarming development and we urge you to give consideration to holding certain selected cases of serious and so-called gangland crime in the Special Criminal Court to protect against intimidation and to ensure security for all concerned."
At the moment 'ordinary' crime trials are not held in the non-jury Special Criminal Court unless there is a direction from the DPP on grounds of feared intimidation of jurors.
But prosecutions taken under the new anti-gangland legislation will automatically be sent to the special court, unless directed otherwise by the DPP.
However, Mr Smith argued that the special court was more appropriate for all trials involving serious crime.
He pointed out there were precedents of trials collapsing, due to witness and jury intimidation, and it would become more difficult to select juries for trial if they believed their personal information could become compromised by threat and intimidation.
Calling for an extension of the taking of fingerprints to cover all those arrested, Mr Smith said this would not only help investigations but would also allow gardai to make greater risk assessment of suspects to determine whether they had a previous propensity towards violence.
He said the new live-scan machines, which allowed for fingerprints to be taken electronically, were already installed in 26 garda stations with a further seven to be upgraded in the coming weeks.
The new machines meant prints could be taken very quickly and, as they were far superior to those taken by the wet ink methods, were more likely to yield results which could be returned to the Pulse system within minutes, he added.
The association came out in support of the Croke Park pay deal but said the garda staff associations should be given a voice and the authority to negotiate pay and conditions.