The court held that the practice engaged in by the gardaí at Waterford Garda Station of recording all incoming and outgoing calls on a particular phone line 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.
This requirement was deemed to have not been met on this occasion.
The court ruled that the evidence obtained in those calls was inadmissible. On consideration of the ruling of the court the Garda Commissioner may wish to re-evaluate his practice regarding the recording of such calls and the consents required if it is to be permissible to use such recordings in evidence.
Was this the evidence that exploded onto Enda Kenny’s desk at the weekend and caused him to announce the setting up of a commission of inquiry?
Well, no, actually. The quote is taken from a GSOC report dated June 2013, and yet it was not until March 2014 that the government became aware of the practice, which is all the more remarkable since the report concerns the criminal trial of four gardai on assault charges. You can read the full text at the end of this post.
What was happening, it seems, is that the Gardai were recording phone conversations between prisoners and their lawyers or friends, without informing them. If it can be shown that they relied on information gained in this manner to gather evidence, there is a possibility that many criminals might be able to have their convictions overturned as well as many innocent people.
Understandably, the legal profession is whirling like a Dervish over this and in truth, the implications are staggering.
It appears that an Garda Síochána has systematically, for decades, trampled on the constitutional rights of accused people, in a manner not unlike the methods of a comic-book secret police force. If, as alleged, the practice has been going on for 30 years, Callinan cannot have been unaware of it.
It also seems clear that neither Callinan nor any civil servant alerted Alan Shatter to this assault on constitutional democracy by our national police force until two weeks ago.
Why? Nobody knows, but can there be any doubt now that our policing model is long past its sell-by date and that the entire force needs to be radically restructured from the ground up and the top down, PSNI-style?