Moves to limit legal fallout over Garda recordings

Enda Kenny says Garda taping revelations may affect tribunals as well as court cases

Justice Minster Alan Shatter with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore at the funeral mass of Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden, in Athlone yesterday. All documentation and equipment linked to the recording of Garda calls is under review within the force. Photograph: PA

Justice Minster Alan Shatter with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore at the funeral mass of Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden, in Athlone yesterday. All documentation and equipment linked to the recording of Garda calls is under review within the force. Photograph: PA

Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 13:16

Efforts are under way to limit any damage to court proceedings as a result of the Garda recording revelations.

Amid anxiety in the Government and the judiciary about the potential to delay and undermine prosecutions, work has begun within the Garda to establish definitively the scope and scale of the covert recording system.

All documentation and equipment linked to the system is under review within the force and senior officers are working to determine which phone lines at Garda stations were connected to the system.

In a separate development, president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns moved to set out guidance to the Special Criminal Court arising from the disclosure that calls to and from a large number of stations were routinely taped for decades.

The revelations have prompted developments in two separate cases and there is concern in the Government and judiciary about the potential for a damaging drip-feed of court delays.


Case-by-case
The expectation in judicial circles is that judges would take a case-by-case approach, but there is fear that the situation could cause significant delays in the criminal justice system.

However, informed sources indicated last night there has been no contact between the Government and the judiciary on the issue.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday the recorded revelations may have implications for tribunals as well as court cases.

Although some in Government circles believe Minister for Justice Alan Shatter may have to take specific measures to contain the risk to cases before the commission of inquiry into the affair starts its work, there is little clarity about what steps might be required or feasible.

Asked whether any initiatives were in planning, the Department of Justice said that the Government has made it clear that it wanted a “full, detailed report on all aspects of this matter” from the department and the Garda.

“These reports are currently being completed,” said a department spokesman.


Trial adjourned
There was no comment from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions when The Irish Times raised the matter, asking whether the DPP was minded to take any specific action arising from the affair.

Mr Justice Kearns’s intervention came as the Special Criminal Court ruled that an IRA membership trial can go ahead. While lawyers for the two defendants had sought confirmation as to whether calls they made from Garda stations were recorded, a senior garda told the court that phone lines at two Garda stations connected to the investigation were not linked to a recording system.

The trial was adjourned until next Tuesday to allow the defendants to consider seeking physical inspections of the stations at Cahir and Clonmel in Co Tipperary.

Mr Justice Paul Butler told the court that Mr Justice Kearns’s guidance was provided independently of what was said in court on Wednesday.

“He has suggested that the court should initially seek clarification and information from counsel for the DPP. Thereafter, the court shall give the defendants’ representatives time to make any representations they deem fit,” he said.

Separately, a defence solicitor who represented Limerick gangland figure John Dundon said he will be seeking a review of his conviction for the murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan following the taping revelations.