Garda Phone Tapping

Luke Luby examines the Garda phone tapping scandal, which is believed to date back to a Gsoc investigation in 2010.

Revelations have been brought to light that show An Garda Siochana took part in the systematic and illegal bugging of calls from the public to certain Garda stations for almost three decades.

These revelations have sparked a number of questions about why such bugging took place, who knew about it, and how it was able to go on for such a period of time, even though such an activity is illegal.

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Since this recording system became known, it has prompted developments in two separate cases and there is concern in the Government and judiciary about the potential for a damaging drip-feed of court delays.

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So far, efforts are under way to limit any damage to court proceedings as a result of the Garda recording revelations, and work has begun within the Gardaí itself to establish the scope and scale of the recording system which was put in place in the 1980s.

All documentation and equipment linked to the system is under review within the force and senior officers are working to determine which phone lines at Garda stations were connected to the system.

Since this recording system became known, it has prompted developments in two separate cases and there is concern in the Government and judiciary about the potential for a damaging drip-feed of court delays. It has been speculated that judges would take a case-by-case approach, but there is fear that the situation could cause significant delays in the criminal justice system. Sources indicated that there has been no, or very little, contact between the Government and the judiciary on the issue.

Not only will the revelations have implications for a number of criminal cases, but there may also be some implications for tribunals, as Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned.

Although many political commentators believe Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, may have to take specific measures to contain the risk to cases before the commission of inquiry, there is little clarity about what steps might be required or feasible.

In another development on the issue, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, moved to set out guidance to the Special Criminal Court arising from the disclosure that calls to and from a large number of stations were routinely taped for decades. Mr Justice Kearns’s intervention came as the Special Criminal Court ruled that an IRA membership trial can go ahead. While lawyers for the two defendants had sought confirmation as to whether calls they made from Garda stations were recorded, a senior Garda told the court that phone lines at two Garda stations connected to the investigation were not linked to a recording system.

The trial was adjourned for several days to allow the defendants to consider seeking physical inspections of the stations at Cahir and Clonmel in County Tipperary.

Separately, a defence solicitor who represented Limerick gangland figure John Dundon said he will be seeking a review of his conviction for the murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan following the taping revelations.