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New laws set to overhaul wide range of garda powers

 14th June 2021

a group of police officers riding on the back of a truck: File photo of gardaai at a checkpoint.© Shutterstock File photo of gardaai at a checkpoint.

THE MINISTER FOR  Justice has today outlined plans for a sweeping overhaul of how gardaí operate, including a new power for gardaí to request passwords or encryption keys for electronic devices.

The new legislation aims to make changes based on the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

These include:

  • The garda caution will be put on a statutory basis
  • The requirement for a written contemporaneous note of a garda interview will be removed in cases where it can be recorded by other means
  • A statutory right for the accused to have their lawyer present at interview will be introduced (already common practice following a 2014 Supreme Court ruling)
  • A power for An Garda Síochána and other bodies to require a person to provide passwords for access to electronic devices when carrying out a search warrant
  • A new requirement to make a written record of a stop and search
  • Statutory codes of practice
  • Special measures will be taken for suspects who are children and suspects who may have impaired capacity (whether because of an intellectual disability, mental illness, physical disability or intoxication)

Other measures include the ability of gardaí to randomly stop and search a car if a serious or terrorist offence is about to occur or has just taken place being expanded to include abduction and trafficking.

The Bill also intends to facilitate longer detention periods for human trafficking, all murder offences, and if multiple offences are being investigated together, while also providing those detained with the right to rest and right to access medical attention.Minister Heather Humphreys© (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images) Minister Heather Humphreys

Minister Heather Humphreys highlighted the current complexity of the law governing how gardaí operate.

Bringing it together will make the use of police powers by gardaí clear, transparent and accessible,” she said in a statement. “The aim is to create a system that is both clear and straightforward for gardaí to use and easy for people to understand what powers gardaí can use and what their rights are in those circumstances.”

At the same time, where we are proposing to extend additional powers to gardaí, we are also strengthening safeguards.

The Minister added that the legislation will help maintain “a crucial balance” in Ireland’s criminal justice system.

The legislation can be read in full here.

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