Dublin’s CCTV network a ‘de facto surveillance operation’, court told

Defence counsel made submissions in trial of Liam Brannigan for conspiring to murder Gary Hanley

 

An Garda Síochána has unlawfully turned Dublin city’s CCTV infrastructure into a “de facto surveillance operation”, a barrister has told the Special Criminal Court.

Defence counsel made the submissions on Tuesday in the trial of Liam Brannigan (37), from Bride Street, Dublin 8, who is charged with conspiring to murder Gary Hanley at a location within the State between September 15th and November 6th, 2017.

The accused has pleaded not guilty.

The court has already heard that gardaí collected 3,500 hours of CCTV footage from businesses across Dublin city and concealed secret listening devices in six suspect cars as part of the investigation.

It also heard the officer in charge of directing the collection of CCTV footage said “no” when he was asked if gardaí checked to see if the business’s CCTV systems were registered with the Data Protection Commissioner, in accordance with the law.

Two weeks ago, Sean Gillane SC, for the State, opened the trial by saying that the prosecution will use CCTV and audio recordings obtained during a Garda surveillance operation to prove Mr Brannigan was “fully knowing of the plot” to kill Mr Hanley.

However, Mr Brannigan’s legal team made submissions today in a bid to have the material excluded from the trial.

In respect of the CCTV footage, Giollaiosa Ó Lideadha SC, for Mr Brannigan, said the evidence demonstrates that gardaí “procured and processed vast amounts of CCTV consciously and deliberately using the infrastructure of a variety of CCTV systems which they knew were reckless as to whether or not they operated within the law”.

“The gardaí knew these systems were not operating in accordance with the law,” he added.

The barrister said the “data controllers” , people who own the CCTV systems - are required to be registered and also need to give notice to the public that their data is being recorded by way of signage.

He said: “Processing data, which is what those controllers did, without registering is a criminal offence.

“So what gardaí are doing is they are habitually using all of the CCTV systems in operation in all of the homes and businesses throughout the city of Dublin, knowing that those systems are not functioning in compliance with the law, knowing indeed that because they’re not registered that they’re actually functioning in breach of criminal law.

“But it doesn’t matter because it’s so very useful.

“And therefore what they do is they turn up and say ‘can you give us access to all your video material?’ - to the people running the systems, most of them commercial entities, of course - and they say, ‘come right in and do what you want’.

“It’s very convenient and very effective. The problem is it is breaching not only the data protection law but criminal law and gardaí know that.

“What they’ve done is they’ve turned the city and all of the CCTV infrastructure into a de facto surveillance operation without any protections and in breach of law.”

On this basis, Mr Ó Lideadha said the CCTV material should be excluded.

In respect of the secret audio recordings, the court has already heard that six vehicles were bugged by gardaí as part of an investigation.

At the opening of the trial, Mr Gillane said recordings of conversations in these cars between the accused and others “make it clear that an operation was in place to attack Gary Hanley at his home in north Dublin”.

However, Mr Ó Lideadha also argued that the audio material is not admissible.