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Callinan did not intend to destroy tapes, letter shows


Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

PUBLISHED correspondence from former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan clearly contradicts claims that he had intended to destroy the tapes of telephone calls recorded at garda stations around the country.

Reports indicated yesterday that fears among government ministers that "someone in the guards" wanted to destroy the tapes led to the decision to set up a commission of inquiry into the taping of calls.

Those fears were said to have been discussed at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.

However, a letter sent by Mr Callinan to the Secretary General of the Department of Justice shows specifically that this was not the case.

The letter was dispatched by courier on March 10 last and marked for the attention of Mr Shatter, although the minister later said he did not become aware of it until March 25, after Mr Callinan had tendered his resignation.

The letter, which was published by the Government on Tuesday night, confirmed claims by associates of Mr Callinan that he was seeking the advice of the Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes, about what action he should take about the tapes, which had been collected from the force's divisional headquarters and stored in the Phoenix Park.

In the letter, Mr Callinan told the department that following the collection of 2,485 tapes, he was very conscious of his role as data controller of the Garda under the Data Protection Act.


Mr Callinan told the department: "The Attorney General's office advises at this time that all the outstanding recordings should be brought together and some inventory made of them, identifying them by station, date of recording and if they are in a condition which can be played or not.

In a report on the taping controversy, prepared by department secretary general Brian Purcell and also published on Tuesday, it was confirmed that garda headquarters had received advice from Billy Hawkes on March 19 and this was sent to the department.

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Mr Purcell said Mr Hawkes' advice was that while there did not appear to be a lawful basis for the retention of the recordings, which are now part of the court case being taken by journalist Ian Bailey in connection with his arrest by gardai investigating the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder, the discovery process in those civil proceedings had to be respected.

"As regards other recordings unconnected with the Bailey case, the advice was that, whatever about the lawfulness of the original recordings, there did not appear to be lawful grounds for their retention now", Mr Purcell's report said.

Garda headquarters then sought the view of the Attorney General about Mr Hawkes' advice and were told that Mrs Whelan's office did not agree that all non-Bailey recordings could be destroyed.

The AG's advice pointed out that if recordings were capable of being of value in the Bailey case, they might be relevant to other cases, in which discovery was ordered.

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