Garda Síochána refuses to disclose figures on officers’ lost phones
12 of the 15 mobile phones being sought by Charleton tribunal cannot be recovered
None of the three phones used by former Garda Press Office head Supt Dave Taylor could be found. Photograph: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
An Garda Síochána has refused to disclose records of mobile phones lost by members of the force over the past number of years.
A Freedom of Information request for the details was submitted on March 24th this year. However, it was refused some weeks later and a subsequent internal review has now upheld the decision not to reveal the records, claiming the information is “operational policing business”.
It was revealed last week that 12 of the 15 mobile phones being sought by the Charleton tribunal cannot be recovered.
The inquiry heard on Friday that only two of six phones used by former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan have been recovered and just one of six phones used by his successor Noirín O’Sullivan was located.
None of the three phones used by former Garda Press Office head Supt Dave Taylor could be found.
The tribunal is inquiring into an allegation that a smear campaign was orchestrated against the Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe on the instructions of senior management.
In March, the Garda was asked under Freedom of Information for records of all mobile phones and/or other technology operated by members of An Garda Síochána and reported lost between 2013 to present.
It was further asked the number of phones and other technology lost in each year, the dates they were reported lost and the Garda district to which the member was attached when the phones were lost.
Corresponding records on mobile phones and/or other technology that was procured to replace the items reported missing was also sought.
While many functions of the Garda are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2014, records relating to finance, procurement and human resources functions are covered.
However, Supt Sharon Kennedy of the Garda’s FOI unit, said records on mobile phones are a policing matter.
“The term ‘administrative records’ is understood to mean records relating to the processes of running and managing a business or organisation,” she said.
“As a result, the FOI Act excludes operational policing business as opposed to the defined administrative processes of An Garda Síochána.
“I am therefore refusing your request as it falls outside the scope of the FOI Act insofar as the records do not meet the criteria of administrative records as defined by the Act.”
After an internal review of the decision was sought, a “principal officer” at Garda Headquarters – described as a “more senior member of staff” – was asked to look at the request again and has upheld the original refusal.
Sgt McCabe has testified before the Charleton Tribunal that he was told by Supt Taylor of a smear campaign involving “hundreds” of text messages to journalists and others. He said this was carried out on the instructions of Mr Callinan and that Ms O’Sullivan knew about it.
The two ex-commissioners have denied any involvement in a smear campaign.
Supt Michael Flynn of the Garda telecoms section told the inquiry that although billing records were available for their phones, the content of any text messages would only be available from the actual devices.
It was not policy that officers had to return their old phones when being issued with new ones, he said.
One of the tribunal’s terms of reference requires it to examine the telecommunications records of contacts between Supt Taylor and former commissioners Callinan and O’Sullivan, for the period July 2012 to May 2014, concerning any smear campaign.