Gardaí sought advice on disposing recordings four days before Taoiseach was told of tapes

Office of Data Protection Commissioner confirm it was contacted on March 19th

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times


The Garda sought advice from the Data Protection Commissioner on how to dispose of illegally obtained recordings of phone calls from Garda stations four days before Taoiseach Enda Kenny was informed of the practice.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil on Tuesday that he was only informed on Sunday by Attorney General Máire Whelan of the widespread use of recordings and its attendant implications.

However, following a query from The Irish Times yesterday, the office of Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes confirmed that it was contacted by the Garda Síochána on Wednesday March 19th in order to seek advice on the disposal of the recordings.

2,500 tapes
The Cabinet was told this week that as many as 2,500 tapes have come to light, raising questions as to whether calls between criminal suspects held in Garda stations and their solicitors were secretly recorded.

“I can confirm that this office was informed of the matter by An Garda Síochána on March 19th 2014,” said a spokeswoman for Mr Hawkes in a statement.

“The correspondence received by this office indicated that the recording of telephone calls (other than emergency calls) had ceased in November 2013 and our advice regarding the issue of the disposal of such recordings was sought.”

‘Personal data’
The statement said the response from Mr Hawkes’s office to this correspondence was provided orally.

“It referred to the requirements of the Data Protection Acts in relation to the duty to not retain personal data for any longer than necessary, subject to any legal requirement to retain or disclose such data – for example in relation to court proceedings – or to obtain authorisation for its secure destruction under the terms of the National Archives Act.”

In response to further queries, the spokeswoman for Mr Hawkes said he had not issued any instruction to delete personal data in this case.

She said the Garda was subject to the requirements of the National Archives Act, and as such, any request for deletion of data would have to be processed via the director of the National Archives.

The recording of telephone conversations by an individual who is not a party to that call is illegal under the Data Protection Acts, except in the event the parties are informed and consent is given, the spokeswoman said.