150% rise in Garda surveillance of criminal gangs

There has been a 150% jump in the use of covert surveillance by gardaí on gangs and dissident republicans in the last year.

150% rise in Garda surveillance of criminal gangs

The massive garda response to the Kinahan-Hutch feud is believed to be a factor in the increase in undercover activities.

There was a total of 129 surveillance operations between August 2015 and July 2016, compared to 51 in the previous 12 months.

There was a rise in the use of bugging devices (audio and visual), including emergency operations without prior court approval. There was a seven-fold rise in the use of tracking devices on vehicles, people and objects.

A report on the use of the powers under the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 show there were:

  • 41 authorisations by the courts of bugging operations, compared to 37 in the previous 12 months.
  • Five urgent bugging operations, authorised internally within the force, compared to two the previous year.
  • 83 authorisations for tracking devices, compared to 12 the previous year.

The report, compiled by Justice Brian McGovern, showed there were four refusals by the courts to garda applications, compared to seven the previous year. The report is a review of the operation of the act, conducted by a designated judge and submitted to the Taoiseach.

The powers can be used by the Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Defence Forces, and GSOC.

Justice McGovern said: “The act is used extensively for the purpose of detecting and combating serious criminal activity including organised crime and activities subversive to the State, terrorist activities and serious Revenue offences.

“From my meetings with senior personnel in the relevant organisations and having reviewed the documentary material provided to me, I am satisfied that significant intelligence has been gathered by means of the act which has either prevented serious crime or assisted in bringing successful prosecutions against the perpetrators of crime.”

Mr Justice McGovern said that he had been given “complete access to all original documentation”.

He said he inspected all the files, including the seven files where Garda surveillance was undertaken in cases of urgency under internal procedures.

He said he was given a tour of the National Surveillance Unit at Garda HQ.

“I was impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the members involved in this work, some of whom face personal danger in carrying out their work, which they do with great professionalism,” said Mr Justice McGovern.

He said the Revenue Commissioners had not used the bugging powers (once in the previous year) but received 26 authorisations for installing tracking devices (17 the previous year).

The Defence Forces used surveillance powers once (same as previous year) and no tracking devices.

GSOC told the judge they had not used the powers.

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