Serious Questions Need to Be Asked of Proposed New Garda Powers
Responding to the publication of the government’s Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill, Aontú Leader & Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín has stated serious questions need to be asked of proposed new Garda powers.
An Teachta Tóibín:
“The new Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill is a deeply worrying piece of legislation, which would grant further wide-reaching powers to an Garda Síochána with little safeguards in place and could have a damaging effect upon civil liberties, privacy rights and public confidence in our justice system. Covid-19 has ushered in a new period of extreme emergency powers.
These powers would me unimaginable just 2 years ago. In this climate it’s hard to see how the government feels it is justifiable to afford further, sweeping powers to Gardaí when emergency powers granted during Covid-19 are meant to end? Policing in a liberal democracy is supposed to be based on the foundation of consent. The Gardaí themselves have stated that their relationships with many in Irish society has been damaged in the last 14 months. No one wants to see a situation where Gardaí cant do their job but their powers must be balanced with citizens’ rights”.
“This follows on from a trend towards weakening safeguards to protect fundamental rights in our justice system. The DPP v JC began to allow for the admission of unconstitutionally obtained evidence. During Covid-19, the legal basis for restrictions such as criminalisation of religious services was unconstitutional – but unchecked. Now, this Bill could violate the fundamental right against self-incrimination. This Bill in the words of one commentator would make the accused complicit in their own prosecution. Passwords for phones and computer devices would give the Gardaí and the State access to personal, sensitive and confidential information”.
“What safeguards do we have to prevent it being abused or mismanaged? The State has certainly shown the capacity to mismanage or exploit private information to its own benefit many times before. Garda superintendents will be able to issue search warrants in place of judges, with no safeguards – this is constitutionally highly suspect. This is an ill-conceived Bill with little to no safeguards or protections for the people. I call on the government to withdraw the Bill immediately, and go back to the drawing board.”