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Fears a litany of criminal cases may be in jeopardy

A LITANY of criminal convictions could be in jeopardy amid fears over recorded phone calls at garda stations.

The amount of cases that could be affected is unknown but it is feared that it may run into the hundreds.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has admitted there is fear that both civil and criminal cases could be tainted.

Meanwhile, a leading criminal solicitor has expressed concern over the tape revelations.

A commission of inquiry has been set up by the government into the practice but well-known solicitor Cahir O'Higgins said the investigation could present many implications.

DIFFICULTIES

"There are a number of potential difficulties that could arise in the context of what has emerged," he said.

"For example, I heard an interview with the Data Protection Commissioner saying that at this point that office was concerned that the correct practice and procedure was adopted and recommended that any unlawfully obtained recordings be destroyed.

"That is difficult to reconcile with any lawful obligations on the State to seek out and preserve evidence in the context of a criminal prosecution."

Mr O'Higgins said it would be of "serious concern" if conversations between solicitors and clients were being recorded.

"Ireland is somewhat unique in that we have vindicated the rights of an individual to legal representation in a garda station. I think Turkey, ourselves and Belgium are the only countries in Europe that accept that a right to legal representation can be vindicated through a phone consultation.

"The integrity of that situation is underwritten by the notion that conversation is in private," Mr O'Higgins said. "I don't think the State can lawfully destroy any recordings in circumstances where proceedings have been connected with them."

HNEWS@HERALD.IE


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