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Allegations of covert recording and tracking in prisons should be referred to the Prisons Inspector - Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

22 November, 2018 - by Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has expressed his concern, at reports contained in today’s Irish examiner, that a private detective agency was hired to bug and carry out surveillance in Irish Prisons.

Speaking today, he said that the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan should refer the allegations to the Prisons Inspector:

“The reports in today’s Irish Examiner are deeply concerning, of a private detective agency, being procured to carry out surveillance, including tracking devices in prison officers cars, and prison vehicles, and listening devices in visitor areas of prisons.

“It is difficult to see what, if any, legal basis there is for a private agency being facilitated in carrying out such actions and surveillance.

"While covert surveillance can be carried out by organisations of the state such as the Gardaí or the revenue commissioners, they require legal permits, and permissions and are subject to safeguards.

"On the basis of what is reported, it is difficult to see how any of this covert surveillance could have been lawfully undertaken by a private firm.

“Clearly preventing contraband entering a prison, is vitally important from a security point of view, and that all legal and reasonable steps should be taken to prevent it, the Prison Service, and it’s staff, have to stay within the law.

“There are also serious issues in terms of private conversations between prisoners and their solicitors being recorded, whether client privilege confidentiality has been breached, and the fact that we have no way of now how secure the systems these private firms have for storing data.

“The Minister needs to tell us whether Irish Prison Service Monies were spent on this private detective agency, and how much.

“I also am asking the Minister for Justice to refer this matter to the Inspector of Prisons, who can examine the allegations, and carry out a scoping inquiry in to these allegations, and to establish as to whether a further inquiry in public or otherwise is required.

“Surveillance is an area which is governed by law in great detail and with significant safeguards, and care must be taken that surveillance is lawful, and that malpractice is not occurring.”

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