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Dermot Ahern must bring forward Covert Surveillance Bill – Ó Snodaigh

8 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on new Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to bring forward the Covert Surveillance Bill. Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said in light of the findings of the sixth report of the Morris Tribunal the Court Surveillance Bill must make provisions governing when and where it is permissible to engage in covert surveillance.

He said afterwards, "In the cases investigated by the Morris Tribunal it was found that Gardaí were secretly recording conversations with civilians and with other members of the force whenever it took their fancy. In his sixth report published yesterday Morris was highly critical of the absence of legislation and guidelines governing the area of covert surveillance.

"Justice Morris said, 'There is little or no legal or ethical guidance given to An Garda Síochána by statute or statutory instrument, or in the Garda Síochána Code, concerning covert surveillance whether by Gardaí in person or audio/visual electronic devices or recorders'.

"According to the legislative programme it is not possible to indicate when the Covert Surveillance Bill will be published. That is not good enough.

"The previous Justice Minister Brian Lenihan made periodic announcements and re-announcements promising the Bill. He has indicated that the Bill will make provision for the admissibility of covertly gathered intelligence as evidence in court.

"But, in light of the findings of the Morris Tribunal, it must also make provisions governing when it is permissible to engage in covert surveillance in the first place and what forms of surveillance are proportionate in what scenarios. It must also vest the power of authorisation in Judges.

"I am calling on the new Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern to bring forward this legislation as soon as possible." ENDS

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