A senior garda who directed a team which harvested 3,500 hours worth of CCTV from premises across Dublin for an investigation into a murder plot has told a court he did not consider the Data Protection Act nor the data protection of members of the public.
Detective Sergeant Declan O’Connell was giving evidence today at the trial of Liam Brannigan, 37, from Bride Street, Dublin 8, in the Special Criminal Court.
Mr Brannigan is charged with conspiring to murder Gary Hanley at a location within the State between September 15 and November 6, 2017.
The accused has pleaded not guilty.
Today the non-jury court heard from managers, or former managers, of various businesses across Dublin, in which they recalled gardaí requesting CCTV from them at their workplace.
At the outset of today’s proceedings, the court heard that, after all the evidence is heard, the prosecution intends to show the court a montage of CCTV footage totalling up to 48 minutes.
John Berry BL, for Mr Brannigan, told the court that the defence is “taking issue” with the admissibility of this footage.
The court heard CCTV was obtained from premises including Londis on Parkgate Street, Dublin 8; Southside Motors, Kylemore Road, Dublin 12; Topaz, Kylemore Road; Applegreen on Parnell Road, Dublin 12; Leydens Wholesalers & Distributors on Richmond Road, Dublin 3; and C&F Motor Factors, Dolphin’s Barn, Dublin 8.
The majority of the managers, or former managers, of these businesses told Mr Berry that when gardaí asked their permission to obtain CCTV footage in 2017, it was done on an informal basis.
The majority of them also said that the requesting gardaí did not cite the Criminal Justice Act or Data Protection Act while making their request.
And none of them could definitively say if their CCTV systems were registered with the Data Protection Commissioner.
The court also heard that CCTV footage was obtained from Spar, Philipsburgh Avenue, Fairview, Dublin 3; Ferrari Takeaway, Ringsend, Dublin 4; Hanover Court, Hanover Lane, Dublin 8; Millmount House, Dumcondra, Dublin 9; Grand Canal Hotel on Grand Canal Street, Dublin 4; Iveagh Market; Dublin Bus, in respect of a specific bus on the Marino to Drimnagh route 123; Google on Barrow Street, Dublin 4; three Luas trams; St James's Hospital and Holles Street Hospital.
Det Sgt O’Connell told the court he was tasked with co-ordinating the collection and viewing of CCTV in relation to the investigation.
He said he personally visited up to about 30 premises to obtain CCTV while he tasked up to five other gardaí to carry out similar exercises.
As the central point of contact for the CCTV operation, he said: “All footage harvested was returned to me.”
He said, in total, some 3,500 hours, or 1.4 terabyte, of footage was harvested and that when each disc or USB key of footage was returned to him, he would copy it onto an external hard drive - for a working copy - and place the original footage in an envelope for it never to be used again.
Mr Berry, who said the footage amounted to around 145 days of footage, put it to Det Sgt O'Connell: “You were directing the operation and you didn’t consider the data protection act or the data protection of the public?”
Det Sgt O’Connell replied: “That’s correct, yeah.”
Earlier, Det Sgt O’Connell recalled calling to the home of Mr Hanley in Dublin on November 15, 2017.
Det Sgt O’Connell told Seán Gillane SC, for the State, that on that date, he spoke with Mr Hanley “at length” and asked him about the security steps he had taken at his home.
Det Sgt O’Connell said there was a CCTV system in place and there were three cameras to the front of the property and one at the back of the house.
The court heard Det Sgt O’Connell asked Mr Hanley for permission to review and download CCTV footage from his system but Mr Hanley declined.
Det Sgt O’Connell said, the following day, he sought and obtained a warrant to seize evidence - CCTV - from Mr Hanley’s home.
After securing the warrant, he and two colleagues went to Mr Hanley’s home and met Mr Hanley, his partner and her mother.
He said he showed the warrant to the latter woman and informed her why gardaí were there.
He said the woman co-operated fully and showed gardaí upstairs to the back room where the CCTV drive was in a wardrobe.
Det Sgt O’Connell said he was later informed that the CCTV was returned to factory settings “which effectively meant the drive was wiped clean”.
However, he said material from the CCTV drive was eventually retrievable.
Three men who previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder Mr Hanley have already been jailed.
They are Luke Wilson, 24, from Cremona Road in Ballyfermot, Dublin; Alan Wilson, 39 of New Street Gardens, Dublin 8; and Joseph Kelly, 35, of Kilworth Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12.
Luke Wilson, who also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a Beretta handgun with intent to endanger life, was jailed for 11 years; Alan Wilson was given six years and Joseph Kelly, who also admitted a weapons charge, was jailed for a total of 12 years.
The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Paul Coffey, presiding, with Judge Sinéad Ní Chúlacháin and Judge James Faughnan.