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Records of top model accessed by gardai using PULSE system

A TOP fashion model is among a number of "high-profile" figures whose records were accessed by gardai in the force's computer system.

Members of the gardai have been using the force's computer records system to snoop on celebrities and sports stars, the Data Protection Commissioner has found.

It follows an audit that uncovered "widespread inappropriate access" by gardai to records in the garda PULSE computer system on public figures and "celebrities" in cases where they were listed as victims and witnesses.

Two unnamed "high-profile" figures had their records accessed 80 and 50 times respectively, while records of three high-profile media personalities and a "well-known" inter-county GAA player were also accessed.

It has now emerged that the records of a top model were among those accessed on the PULSE system.

Last night a garda statement said that Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was now satisfied that the force was "fully compliant" with its obligations under data protection legislation.

"A recent garda force directive has been issued reminding members of their obligations and duties in this regard," the statement said.

Revealing details of his investigation in his annual report, which was published yesterday, Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes said that during the audit it became immediately apparent that two high-profile figures had their records accessed over 80 and 50 times respectively by members of An Garda Siochana.

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"In addition, the number of PULSE accesses returned on the records of three high-profile media personalities and also a well known inter-county GAA player appeared to bear no relation to the valid entries relating to these individuals in connection with official police business."

When the Data Protection Office raised the issue with senior garda management "as a matter of urgency", it was told that there were plans to introduce a new review system which "places a responsibility on district superintendents to require members to account for the business reason for a specified percentage of access to the system per month".

Senior gardai told the commission that the conduct of the review would involve a "performance requirement" of each garda superintendent "with failure to do so leading to action".

Mr Callinan issued a circular last December ordering the reasons for PULSE queries to be recorded when accessing the system.

The Data Commissioner's report notes: "We intend to follow up and examine evidence of the new audit review programme."

According to his annual report, the office dealt with 1,349 complaints – exceeding last year's record high by 188 – as well as 1,666 data security breach notifications.

It also successfully took around 200 prosecutions involving 11 separate entities.

More than 600 complaints referred to unsolicited direct marketing text messages, phone calls, fax messages and emails.

Irish Independent