Hidden cameras, bugs and phone taps to give gardaí edge against gangs

TINY covert cameras, sound recording devices, bugs, and phone taps.

The new criminal justice surveillance bill, published yesterday, will finally allow evidence gathered by these devices to be used in court.

A conviction rate of just 11% for the 171 shootings over the last 11 years tells its own story, but with the introduction of these new laws, it is hoped securing prosecutions will be easier.

While the technology sounds simplistic, according to security expert Cathal O’Neill, the kind of devices used will not be readily available on the commercial market.

“This is state of the art technology which criminals would not have access to,” he said.

“The companies selling it would do their best to stay one step ahead and keep the technology out of reach of criminals.”

Indeed, this kind of evidence gathering method is already being used by covert teams, but up until now the information could not be used in court.

“This will mean the difference between a successful outcome in court or losing a case.

“It will mean all the energy and expense of getting the case to court in the first place will not be wasted.”

Of course, there will be a cost factor, but if the evidence gathered with this new technology results in convictions, the return on this investment will be well worth it, says Mr O’Neill.

According to Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan, however, there are questions as to whether the surveillance bill will be met with adequate resources.

“For the bill to be a success it must be more than a paper exercise,” said Mr Flanagan.

“What is needed in tandem with this bill is a commitment to resource the DPP’s office, which suffered a 3% cut in funding last year.”

No doubt criminals will try and fight this new legislation, but the bill is said to be written and structured in such a way as to make their arguments, which may be based on human rights and privacy issues, ineffective.

According to Mr O’Neill, power to use the laws will only be issued at the very highest level.

“Special units will have to get authority from a judge so the whole thing is being structured in a way that won’t leave any gaps,” he said.


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