Shatter says ruling will impact on criminal justice procedures

Legal opinion suggests Ireland must now fall in line with broader European norms

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he had no doubt the principles detailed by the Supreme Court will be complied with. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he had no doubt the principles detailed by the Supreme Court will be complied with. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said today’s Supreme Court ruling relating to the questioning of suspects in Garda custody clearly impacts on the manner in which criminal justice issues are approached.

He was reacting to the unanimous Supreme Court decision in the case of Raymond Gormley (29) of Glenwood Park, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, whose 2008 conviction for attempted rape was quashed on the grounds that a suspect requesting a solicitor cannot be questioned until access to legal advice has been provided.

The case has prompted widespread legal opinion that Ireland must now fall in line with broader European norms on the right to representation for those in custody.

“Quite clearly a decision of the Supreme Court is a decision which impacts on the manner in which criminal justice issues must be approached and addressed,” Mr Shatter said. “I have no doubt the Garda Síochána and the Garda Commissioner will study the judgment and that the principles detailed by the Supreme Court will be complied with.”

However, he said he has yet to study the full judgement , which he said is “important” and “brings some degree of clarity to an issue that has been the subject of a lot of legal debate”.

He said: “I want to study the judgement, I certainly wouldn’t comment on it with regard to what relevance it may with regard to any other decided cases or to any pending cases.”

Tom O’Malley, a senior law lecturer at NUI Galway, said there had been a number of similar rulings over the last 20 years. “But what this does is make the all-important decision that a person shouldn’t be questioned by the gardaí before they have a chance to contact a solicitor if they have requested one.”

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties director Mark Kelly welcomed the decision. “The Government should heed the Supreme Court’s clear call for law reform in this area, by changing the law to require that a lawyer be present when people in custody are questioned by members of An Garda Síochána,” he said.

Law Society director general Ken Murphy said the decision was of little surprise and appears to be “a major step towards a requirement for solicitors to be present during the interrogation of suspects”.

Michael Finucane, chair of the society’s Human Rights Committee said: “All of Europe, except us, have the basic right to a lawyer when someone is being interrogated by police.”

An Garda Siochána declined to comment.