The Garda Ombudsman will be able to conduct electronic surveillance and access communications of gardaí under radical Government plans.
The proposal — part of a “sea change” announced yesterday — marks the first time in the history of the State any agency will have the power to bug the force.
The surprise measure will mean GSOC will be able to place surveillance devices to watch and listen to gardaí under criminal investigation by them. It will also empower GSOC to intercept the communications devices of gardaí, including landline and mobile phones and internet devices — subject to court and ministerial approval.
The Heads of the Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2014 also states there will be a “statutory obligation” for the sharing of information between gardaí and GSOC.
This is an issue which sparked controversy after GSOC claimed it was taking too long to get sensitive data under agreed protocols.
Also under the heads:
-GSOC will be able to conduct a criminal investigation involving the Garda Commissioner — apart from investigating his/her general direction and control functions;
-GSOC will be able to conduct a public interest investigation where the identity of the garda may not be initially known;
-GSOC will be able to examine — on its own initiative — a Garda practice, policy or procedure.
The general time limit for making a complaint to GSOC will be extended from six to 12 months.
A new independent review mechanism will examine allegations received by the Government.
GSOC’s sister agency, the Garda Inspectorate, will also be given power to launch its own investigations.
“These measures, together with the establishment of an independent Garda Authority and the opening-up of recruitment process for Garda commissioner, marks the start of a sea change I promised on coming to office,” said Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
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