‘The recordings are being stored carefully’

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 06:36

Secretary General
Department of Justice and Equality
94 St Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2

RE: Recording of Telephone Conversations made and retained in Garda Stations.
Data Protection Acts – Retention of Data.

Dear Secretary General,

I wish to bring the following to the Minister’s attention in accordance with Section 41 (d) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

During the discovery process in the current civil proceedings being taken by Mr Ian Bailey and his partner, Ms Catherine Jules Thomas, for wrongful arrest and under other headings, further material has come to light that is relevant to discovery in those proceedings. This material relates to tapes of telephone conversations which took place on various dates during 1997 between members of An Garda Síochána at Bandon Garda Station and other serving members of An Garda Síochána and also with Ms Marie Farrell and in other cases with journalists who were contacting An Garda Síochána seeking information. These tapes are currently being reviewed as part of the Discovery process and will be listed in an Affidavit of Discovery which must be sworn by An Garda Síochána before the 25th March 2014.

As you are aware, An Garda Síochána and your Department are currently dealing with an order for Discovery which was made by Mr Justice Hedigan on 17 May 2013 [portion redacted here]. A copy of these transcripts has previously been forwarded to the Chief State Solicitor’s Office for review by Senior Counsel and I understand, following receipt of advices from Counsel a copy of those transcripts has also been forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office and to your Department.

The analysis of remaining recordings is continuing at present which includes inter alia recordings of telephone calls between members of An Garda Síochána at Bandon Garda Station and journalists contacting An Garda Síochána [portion redacted here].

It has since transpired following enquiries that systems would appear to have been installed during the 1980s in Garda Stations to allow for the recording of incoming and outgoing telephone calls from designated extensions. The rationale behind this was the recording of Garda radio traffic to and from control rooms, 999 calls and the gathering of evidence around calls made to Garda stations regarding bomb threats and other code word messages. This practice has continued in some stations over the years with the relevant recordings being retained within the station itself. The original recorders were replaced with Dictaphone recorders during the 1990s and further replaced by NICE recorders which were installed in 2008.

I have since directed that the routine recording of non 999 Emergency calls to Garda stations cease and confirm that all recordings save those made on dedicated 999 lines were fully stopped nationally on 27 November 2013.

The only calls currently being recorded are 999 calls to the ECAS service where, since the legislation underpinning it in 2007 was enacted, a member of the public gives up their right to privacy when they ring the 999 service. BT ECAS record these calls from start to finish and An Garda Síochána record them from the point where they are handed over to it.

I await written confirmation from each Divisional Officer that all audio recordings that were stored at each of the Divisional HQ’s outside of the Dublin Metropolitan Region are collected and are now stored securely in Garda Headquarters pending finalisation of legal advice. The total amount of tapes collected to date is 2,485.