Scale of Garda station phone taping revealed

Bandon recordings ‘could expose State to damages of €2.5m over Ian Bailey case’

File picture of Ian Bailey  in Dublin from 2012. Mr Bailey has brought a civil action for unlawful arrest against the State over the Garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in December 1996. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

File picture of Ian Bailey in Dublin from 2012. Mr Bailey has brought a civil action for unlawful arrest against the State over the Garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in December 1996. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The full extent of the practice of taping telephone conversations in Garda stations throughout the State is revealed in an inventory prepared within the Garda Síochána in February.

The internal inventory, seen by The Irish Times , gives the number of tapes made by Garda division per year as well as the place, date and time of calls made on new solid state “NICE” recorders after 2008.

Meanwhile, informed sources now believe that the content of the recordings made in Bandon Garda Station relating to the Ian Bailey case could expose the State to a potential €2.5 million in damages.

Toscan du Plantier
Mr Bailey has brought a civil action for unlawful arrest against the State over the Garda investigation into the murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in December 1996. He was twice arrested for questioning in connection with the murder but never charged in relation to the killing and always denied involvement.

The Irish Times has learned that the head of telecommunications in Garda headquarters, Supt Michael Flynn, sent an inventory on February 19th last to the Garda executive director of Information and Communications Technologies, Liam Kidd, informing him of the 2,485 recordings made outside Dublin.

Supt Flynn said that these recordings were made on obsolete dictaphone recorders and had been improperly stored randomly in cardboard boxes at each location. They all pre-dated 2008. “I carried out a cursory examination of some tapes and I have detected evidence of mould which would indicate decay of the magnetic material which will render the tapes unplayable,” he stated.

“In order to support the requirements of the examination of the tapes in Bandon, we had to recover recorders from a number of sites which resulted in us rebuilding four machines to play back the tapes.

“These machines are in use and I would recommend against attempting to play the tapes returned to HQ so as not to risk damaging these machines,” Supt Flynn continued.

Breakdown
The inventory is divided into two parts, the first gives a breakdown of the number of dictaphone tapes returned to Garda HQ from the different divisions. The Louth division had 356 tapes, the greatest number of any division. There were 320 in Sligo-Leitrim, 316 in Laois-Offaly, 296 in Westmeath and 185 in Tipperary.

The number returned from remaining Garda divisions were: Limerick 109, Monaghan 152, Cork Anglesea Street 124; Cork North 95, Wexford 136, Waterford 134, Donegal 31, Roscommon/ Longford 135 and Mayo 95. [ The Irish Times noted the individual figures totalled are one short of the 2,485 figure.]

A letter from the former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan to the Department of Justice, dated March 10th, states that systems to allow for the recording of incoming and outgoing calls from designated extensions in Garda stations were installed during the 1980s. The original recorders were replaced with dictaphone recorders during the 1990s and further replaced by NICE recorders in 2008.

Recordings
The comprehensive nature of recordings stored on the NICE system since 2008 is demonstrated in the second part of the inventory seen by The Irish Times . It details the location, date and time of such recordings. It shows that apart from Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park, the recordings are conducted below divisional level.

Dictaphone solid state recordings were carried out in Bandon, Castlebar, Cork, Bray, Harcourt New, Drogheda, Ennis, Galway, Kilkenny, Letterkenny, Limerick NRX, Monaghan, Mullingar, Naas, Navan, Portlaoise, Roscommon, Sligo, Thurles, Thurles FCPS, Tralee, Waterford and Wexford.

Bandon station
In Bandon Garda station, which is at the centre of the latest controversy in the discovery process in the Ian Bailey case, 11 calls are listed for 2008 and one for 2009, according to the inventory.

Dictaphone recordings took place in the alarms control room, “blueman”, doctor’s phone room, emergency analog backup, incident room analog, incident room mainline, sergeants’ overflow front desk, D branch, tetra radio, Bandon 2200 control room 1, Bandon 2240 public office and, finally, on April 28th, 2009, in the Bandon freephone control room at 2.59am.