Tuesday 21 October 2014

High Court president warns judges to ask lawyers if they have concerns about recorded phone calls

Published 27/03/2014 | 14:17

Justice Nicholas Kearns told judges to ask lawyers coming before the Central Criminal Court and the non-jury Special Criminal Court early in the proceedings if they have concerns about recorded phone calls in their cases.

Judges taking criminal trials have been warned about the potential disruption over the Garda phone taping revelations.

The High Court President Justice Nicholas Kearns told judges to ask lawyers coming before the Central Criminal Court and the non-jury Special Criminal Court - which deals with terrorism and organised crime - early in the proceedings if they have concerns about recorded phone calls in their cases.

The Director of Public Prosecutions will have to decide if there are any problems before the judge will rule on adjournments or other actions.

One veteran court official said: "This is the most serious potential threat I have seen to the progress of trials over the past 20 years."

One case before the Special Criminal Court, involving two men charged with IRA membership, has already been adjourned over the phone taping concerns.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned a secret system recording telephone calls at Garda stations over three decades could threaten the outcome of tribunals as well as court cases.

A State inquiry has been ordered into the revelations exposed hours after Garda chief Martin Callinan stood down as the country's most senior police officer in a departure that shocked even his closest circle.

The Government had already warned of potential turmoil in the justice system over fears that court cases - ongoing and historic - could be challenged on the basis that defence teams had not been made aware of relevant - and possibly illegal - telephone recordings.

This morning, Taoiseach Mr Kenny revealed the Coalition's concerns over the debacle now extended to the safety of tribunal outcomes.

"I don't know the scale of the actual contents of what are in all those tapes but we're concerned about it," he said.

"It's a serious issue, where in some cases courts cases have been dealt with, others reaching up as far as tribunals, it may have implications for some of the findings there."

Mr Kenny did not identify any particular inquiries.

Over the past few decades a shadow has been cast over public life in Ireland by several long-running tribunals of inquiry, including the Morris and Smithwick Tribunals into Garda corruption, the cash-for-votes Mahon Tribunal and the payments-to-politicians Moriarty Tribunal.

The phone line taping at selected Garda stations began in the 1980s and operated up until November last year.

Around 2,500 tapes of calls have already been discovered.

An unknown number of digital recordings have been made since a hi-tech upgrade of the system in 2008.

Press Association

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