Last government reviewed search warrants - Shatter

Sat, May 26, 2012, 01:00

A DEPARTMENTAL review of provisions on search warrants had been conducted under the previous government, the Minister for Justice has said.

Alan Shatter recalled yesterday that concerns relating to the possible frailty of search warrants issued by investigating gardaí were flagged as far back as the Morris tribunal report.

However the Minister said he would “not voice any criticism” of his predecessor Dermot Ahern over the matter.

On Wednesday the Court of Criminal Appeal quashed the convictions of three men who had been jailed for kidnapping the family of a Securicor driver.

The court heard the convictions could not stand on the grounds that some evidence used in the trial had been secured on foot of warrants issued by a Garda superintendent, who was one of the senior officers involved in the case.

“There was a reference to the relevant statute in the Morris report,” Mr Shatter said. “That matter, I know, was examined and the legal view was that the legislation was sound.”

What had subsequently happened was “an interpretation by the courts” which affected cases “that have been determined some time ago”.

Mr Shatter added: “What I need to do as Minister is to ensure we address the difficulty in that legislation so that the Garda Síochána have available to them all the legislative back-up they require when investigating serious crime and subversive crime.”

The Morris tribunal issued its final report in 2008. Following that an internal departmental review had taken place, which Mr Shatter said had been conducted under his predecessor. However he was “not going to voice any criticism”.

He agreed with the Garda Commissioner that all investigations had been properly carried out “under the law as it then was”.

Mr Callinan told journalists it was “important” to point out there was no adverse criticism of the investigators or the integrity of those involved in the investigations and conviction that had been “dismantled” in the appeal.

He said individuals and the force in general had worked very hard on the such cases and it would not be wise to speculate on how many cases may now be before the courts on appeal.

The force would be consulting the DPP on which appeals should be defended.

He said the members of investigating teams had his “fullest support”. He was satisfied they had acted “within the law at that time”.

Mr Shatter and Mr Callinan were speaking in Garda headquarters at the launch of a new initiative aimed at tracking and rescuing abducted children.

On the return of double killer John Gallagher to the Central Mental Hospital 12 years after absconding from it, Mr Callinan said the issue was being investigated.