Saturday 10 December 2016

Those accused of crime also have rights and should be respected

Shane Kilcommins

Published 18/04/2015 | 02:30

Whilste most of us may not have to call upon these rights to defend ourselves in Garda stations, we should bear in mind that the executive power of the State extends far beyond this to include the Revenue, the Health and Safety Authority, water meter inspectors, and so on.
Whilste most of us may not have to call upon these rights to defend ourselves in Garda stations, we should bear in mind that the executive power of the State extends far beyond this to include the Revenue, the Health and Safety Authority, water meter inspectors, and so on.

The Supreme Court has overturned a long-standing constitutional rule of evidence, reversing its own earlier decision that it handed down in 1990. The rule itself, commonly referred to as the exclusionary rule, provides that evidence obtained as a result of a deliberate and conscious breach of constitutional rights is excluded, unless there are extraordinary excusing circumstances.

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Those circumstances include the imminent destruction of evidence and the need to rescue a person in peril. The rule, as previously interpreted, operated in an all-or-nothing fashion: if it was found that the evidence was gathered in breach of constitutional rights, it had to be excluded unless the circumstances were extraordinary.

If, for example, a garda gathered evidence not knowing that he or she was breaching the constitutional rights of the accused party, this did not save the evidence at trial - it would still be excluded.

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