Friday 23 February 2018

Go-ahead for new law to resolve garda search warrant problems

Tom Brady Security Editor

The Government has given the go-ahead for new legislation to sort out the problems that arose as a result of a Supreme Court ruling on search warrants issued by gardai.

The ruling led to several criminal convictions being quashed on appeal.

These included the case of three men who had been jailed for up to 25 years for the tiger kidnapping of the family of a Securicor van driver seven years ago.

A further raft of criminal convictions are also expected to be affected by the decision in February that search warrants issued by a garda superintendent under section 29 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939, were repugnant to the Constitution because they had not been issued by an officer who was independent of the criminal investigation.

At yesterday's cabinet meeting, Justice Minister Alan Shatter secured approval for his new bill, which he intends to publish shortly and have it enacted before the summer recess in the Oireachtas.

He said the bill would provide that an application for a warrant could be made in the district court and would limit the circumstances in which a superintendent, or officer of higher rank, might authorise a warrant in urgent circumstances where a judge was not available.

Mr Shatter said the latter warrants could be issued only by a superintendent, who was independent of the investigation, and would exist only for a short time.

He pointed out that the legislation would be confined to future garda investigations and could not be used retrospectively.

The Supreme Court ruling was made in a case brought by Ali Charaf Damache, who was arrested as a suspect in an alleged conspiracy to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks over his drawing of the prophet Muhammad.

Mr Damache successfully challenged the validity of a warrant issued under section 29 to search his home by a garda involved in investigating the allegation.

Two weeks before the tiger kidnap case, the court quashed the conviction of Ted Cunningham, who was found guilty in 2009 of laundering more than €3m from the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast in 2004.

Last March the trial of a man accused of IRA membership collapsed in the Special Criminal Court. No evidence was heard in the trial of Peter Butterly, of Cortown, Dunleer, Co Louth, who had pleaded not guilty to being a member of an illegal organisation in October 2010.

The previous week the State decided not to proceed with firearms and ammunition charges against Dublin man Paul Maye.

Irish Independent

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