Friday 20 April 2018

Q&A - phone interception

What exactly is the law on taping phone calls?

Q. Can the gardai or others listen to my phone calls?

A. It is a criminal offence for someone to intercept a phone call without legal authorisation.

But the gardai, army and revenue officials can listen to your phone calls if the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform gives them permission to do so.

There are strict conditions justifying an authorisation: either for purpose of investigation into a serious or suspected serious offence or in the case of a serious offence which is apprehended but has not been committed.

The operation of intercepts is monitored by the President of the High Court who ensures that the intercepts are confined to those which are authorised by the Minister.

Q. Can I tape my phone calls without telling the other person?

A. Yes: the law no longer requires dual consent of both parties.

If the consent of one of the parties to a telephone conversation has been obtained, no offence will have been committed by merely recording the conversation.

Q. Can gardai tape phone calls to and from stations?

A. It's complicated.

Under the 1993 Act, it is arguable that gardai can tape calls as long as one party - in this case the gardai - consents.

But the seriousness with which the Government is treating the secret stash of recorded calls suggests that it is at best suspicious and, at worst, illegal.

Q. If I am a suspect in custody in a garda station, are phone calls between me and my lawyer not confidential?

A. Yes, if you have a telephone call with your solicitor while in custody in a garda station, those conversations are private and protected by statute.

Calls between other persons such as family members can be noted, but only after a suspect is informed that the call is being recorded.

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