Wednesday 13 December 2017

Law Society urges Kenny to include 41 issues in phone probe

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Collins
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Collins

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

THE Law Society, the ruling body for solicitors, has asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to include 41 issues in the Terms of Reference in the forthcoming inquiry into what it says is the "secret and illegal" recording of phone calls in garda stations.

Society president John Shaw told Mr Kenny that the revelations of recorded telephone conversations to and from a large number of garda stations over a period of decades was "deeply disturbing".

The Society has also issued a letter in similar terms to Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Nial Fennelly, who is chairing the commission.

The revelations about the garda tapes, said Mr Shaw in his letter to Mr Kenny, "strikes directly at the foundations of our criminal justice system".

The Society said it was deeply concerned about the implications for the right to a private conversation between clients and their solicitors while a person is in garda detention, adding that any breach to the right of private access to a solicitor was a breach of a person's constitutional rights.

It says the statutory Commission of Investigation must establish 41 issues including:

* The extent of any interception/eavesdropping, whether recorded electronically or otherwise, and the extent to which notes of conversations may have been made.

* The extent to which any other covert listening devices/recording devices/interceptions/monitoring other than telephones may be in place in any garda stations/places of detention.

* The extent to which the recording system was ever used for investigative purposes/evidence gathering.

* All instances where solicitor-client confidentiality was breached by the very recording/interception.

* Any instances where conversations between solicitor-client were covertly monitored and/or were used in subsequent investigations.

The solicitors' body has also queried why the phone recording system was not installed in Dublin garda stations and only in selected non-Dublin stations.

It has also indicated that the fair trial rights of people who have been prosecuted, may have already been affected by the practice of recording calls.

"Where a person also then becomes subject to proceedings following such a breach, their constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process may also be affected," said Mr Shaw.

"The protection afforded to conversations between clients and their solicitors for the purposes of obtaining legal advice is central to the Constitutional right to a fair trial, the justice system as a whole and may be a potential breach of the Article 8 privacy rights of individuals protected under the European Convention on Human Rights".

Irish Independent

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