Thursday 29 September 2016

Ireland out of step with Europe on access to journalists' phones

Published 18/01/2016 | 02:30

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Damien Eagers
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Damien Eagers

Confirmation that Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is to seek a review of the powers of GSOC in its investigative procedures and practices is to be welcomed.

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But questions remain as to how Irish laws could be so out of step with those in the UK and the rest of Europe in the first place.

And it also must be asked what constitutes "the prevention of serious offences" - upon which 'GSOC PhoneWatch' may have relied in its use of the Retention of Data Act to access journalists' phones.

In other countries the permission of a judge is needed before such searches can take place, and only in special circumstances.

In the UK a commissioner is appointed specifically to keep under review the interception of communications, and the acquisition and disclosure of communications data, by intelligence agencies, police forces and other public authorities.

The Interception of Communications Commissioner reports to the prime minister on a half-yearly basis with respect to his functions in relation to the Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data Code of Practice.

This is not the first time that GSOC has come in for criticism based on its practices.

Not only do Irish laws now have to be strengthened or changed in light of the latest scandal, but perhaps it is now time to examine whether changes need to be made at GSOC - before trust evaporates completely.

Irish Independent

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