Government approves use of body cameras by gardaí

Body-camera use ‘increases admissions and early guilty pleas’ says Minister for Justice

Gardaí will be equipped with body cameras under plans approved by the Cabinet today. File photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins.

Gardaí will be equipped with body cameras under plans approved by the Cabinet today. File photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins.

 

Gardaí will be equipped with body cameras under new plans which have been agreed by the Government today.

The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan received Cabinet approval to draft new legislation which will allow gardaí to wear the body cameras.

The devices will capture “a clear unambiguous record of particular events and interactions such as at public order protests,” Mr Flanagan said.

The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland previously noted that the technologies available to An Garda Síochána were limited and outdated and it proposed a plan strategy for digital innovation which included the roll-out of body-worn cameras.

“The use of body-worn cameras by modern police services around the world has increased dramatically over the last five years or so,” Mr Flanagan said after the Cabinet meeting.

“The evidence available suggests that they can greatly improve police frontline capability with the accurate recording of incidents. They provide a contemporaneous evidence capture and a clear unambiguous record of particular events and interactions, such as at public order protests. Their deployment can lead to an increase in admissions and early guilty pleas. Most importantly, their usage may increase public trust and build confidence in policing generally.”

Mr Flanagan said work is also progressing on a Policing and Community Safety Bill, which will provide for a governance and oversight framework to empower the Garda Commissioner to act as CEO, supported and held to account by a non-executive board.

This will ultimately lead to a better-run organisation and more effective policing, the Department said.

‘Transparency’

President of the Garda Representative Association Jim Mulligan has described the use of body cameras by gardaí as a win-win for the public and for officers.

Speaking in response to the Government’s decision to legislate for their use, Mr Mulligan said: “We have been calling for the introduction of body cameras for many years, having seen their benefit in other jurisdictions.

“They have been proven to have a positive effect in reducing levels of violence, complaints against police and in providing evidence in the criminal justice system – often speeding up court proceedings.”

Mr Mulligan said the devices provide transparency in policing, both for the officers, and for members of the public who may have a complaint about the actions of an individual garda.

Frontline policing

The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland first recommended that body cameras should be used by gardaí to increase the efficiency of frontline policing and potentially to protect members from harm.

The constitutional right to privacy and the European Convention on Human Rights will be considered as part of the draft process and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will be consulted, it is understood.

The Data Protection Commission will also be asked to advise on data-protection issues.

According to the Department, the use of body-worn cameras will form part of the wider Garda CCTV management strategy, and that the new legislation will also provide a legal basis for the extension of the circumstances in which Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) devices may be used by gardaí.

Under current laws, CCTV and ANPR may be authorised at fixed sites for the purpose of securing public order and safety in public places.