New Garda body-worn cameras expected to lead to more prosecutions of far right

Many agitators have engaged in threatening behaviour almost impossible to police during chaotic public disorder incidents

New Garda body-worn cameras became operational in Dublin on Friday

Far-right agitators and other extremists will be more likely to be charged with a range of criminal offences, including making verbal threats, based on video footage recorded by the Garda’s new body-worn cameras.

Gardaí have been concerned that a range of crimes at protests – including the extreme verbal abuse of frontline gardaí during chaotic public disorder – had become almost impossible to police, with prosecutions almost never arising. Even when video footage of those incidents emerged on social media, it rarely identified the perpetrator and was not of a quality required by the courts.

However, it was now expected the new body-worn cameras – the first 150 of which became operational in Dublin on Friday – would now tilt the balance of power at protests back in the favour of gardaí.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said the new cameras represented a significant change for policing of extremists as the footage would be accompanied by audio and it was the words of suspects that often “betrays the intent of the individual”.


Garda officers said the quality of the footage from the cameras would capture those engaged in criminality at protests with TV-quality clarity. They also believed that audio captured would lead to a range of prosecutions for threatening and abusive behaviour, which extremists have mostly managed to avoid.

“It’s those kind of threats and abuse, verbal onslaughts, that a lot of these people specialise in,” said one source. “Without having evidence of what they said, and that links the words to a specific person, it’s been very hard to prosecute them.”

Other sources said gardaí policing the most violent protests were often bussed in from other divisions. This meant they would not recognise local protesters or organised far-right agitators who often travelled from Dublin.

However, the inability to identify verbally and physically abusive protesters would now be negated by clear footage with audio of a standard to satisfy the DPP that charges should be pursued against suspects.

As well as an anticipated spike in threatening and abusive behaviour charges against far-right agitators, gardaí also believed they would be charged with other low level offences more often. This includes preventing or interrupting the free passage of a person or vehicle at sites housing asylum seekers, or being prepared for that purpose.

How will the new Garda body-worn cameras work in practice?Opens in new window ]

Though the Garda has been in discussion with the DPP about using anti-terror legislation to charge far-right agitators, especially those protesting outside politicians’ homes, this is seen as an untested and more complex legal option.

Taoiseach Simon Harris welcomed the launch of the Garda body-worn camera system in Dublin on Friday, saying it had been a source of “frustration” for many that “the only person at the scene of a crime or a protest without a camera is a guard”.

The commissioner said if body-worn cameras had been available to gardaí during the Dublin riots last November, they would have greatly aided the investigation of the violence and threats made.

“It certainly would have given us more footage, and more footage of the initial stages of the disorder,” he said. “And a lot of that was around verbal abuse and interactions and extreme language being used by individuals, and that’s not captured on the CCTV systems. We’ve thousands and thousands of hours of CCTV but what we don’t have is the audio and the audio betrays the intent of the individual.”

However, Mr Harris also said the roll out of the cameras, once people knew they were being recorded by gardaí, would “temper” some extremist behaviour.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times