Refusal to surrender phone password could lead to five years in prison and €30k fine under proposed new Garda powers

Refusal to surrender phone password could lead to five years in prison and €30k fine under proposed new Garda powers

Under the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill, a person who refuses to surrender a password for a mobile phone or other device to gardaí could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €30,000

THE new garda powers will have to be compliant with human rights.

That is according to Corkman Liam Herrick who is the executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

Under the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill, a person who refuses to surrender a password for a mobile phone or other device to gardaí could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €30,000.

It will also oblige gardaí to make a written record in every case when they stop and search a person.

And gardaí will no longer be obliged to make written records of interviews with suspects and witnesses if other recording options are available.

Mr Herrick said that while elements of the bill are to be welcomed, there are also concerns.

"There is much to be welcomed in the new Bill, including an obligation on gardaí to record every instance of stop-and-search and to provide an explanation to people when they are carrying them out. However, ICCL is concerned that superintendents (not courts) may be empowered to warrant searches. 

There should also be more detail around safeguards on the use of force. ICCL will be engaging with the Department of Justice on these issues to ensure the new Bill is compliant with human rights principles".

The council is preparing a submission for the Department of Justice on the concerns it has.

They include the provision that warrants can be issued by superintendents in "exceptional circumstances". The ICCL says that warrants should only be ever be issued by the courts.

The council welcomes the provision that someone will have to be informed of a reason if they are being stopped and searched by gardaí, as well as the obligation on gardaí to record every instance. However, the council says it would also like to see gardaí recording data regarding the race, ethnicity and gender of people who are stopped and searched.

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