The watchdog said they considered the report of “sufficient importance” to make it “available to everyone” by publishing it online, rather than just sending it to Justice Minister Alan Shatter or his department.
The comments came after Mr Shatter told the Dáil yesterday that GSOC had not brought the report to the attention of his department.
“The simple truth is GSOC did not furnish the report mentioned to me and I am advised that they did not furnish it to my department officials nor bring it to the Department’s attention.”
He added: “GSOC obviously did not regard this report as of sufficient importance to furnish it specifically to me or my department, but issued a press release.”
The minister was responding to criticism that the report should have raised a “red flag” within the department about the existence of the system, particularly given a court had ruled that it broke the law.
The report published by the ombudsman on June 16 last was in relation to its prosecution of four gardaí at Waterford Station for the assault of Anthony Holness.
The report showed how the prosecution attempted to use as evidence phone recordings of some of the gardaí on a system in the station. GSOC said the court ruled the system was “in breach of the relevant statute on the recording of telephone communications, which requires that at least one of the parties to a phone call has consented to its being recorded”.
The report said the evidence was inadmissible, adding the commissioner may want to “re-evaluate” the practice.
Asked why it didn’t send the report to the minister or the department, a GSOC spokeswoman said: “We published the report so that it was publicly available. It was a very high profile case and there was considerable public awareness.”
Asked to respond to the minister’s comments that it didn’t consider the report to be of sufficient importance, she said: “We considered the report to be of sufficient importance to make it available to everyone.”
On the matter of its involvement in the controversy, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) yesterday confirmed they were contacted by the Garda Síochána on March 19 last, as mentioned by Mr Shatter in the Dáil.
A spokeswoman for the DPC said the consultation was regarding the destruction of the recordings: “The letter received by this office indicated that the recording of telephone calls (other than emergency calls) had ceased in November 2013 and our advice regarding the issue of the disposal of such recordings was sought.”
Commenting on such recording in general, the spokeswoman said that under data protection legislation people ringing a number or receiving a call “should be cleary informed” if the call was recorded.