Surveillance bill to go before Cabinet - Ahern


Laws to allow surveillance intelligence to be used in court will be considered by the Cabinet tomorrow.

An outline of legislation is expected to be published soon afterwards if Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern receives the go-ahead for the proposals.

Bugged phone calls, email conversations, wire taps and covert video footage could be used in underworld criminal trials as part of a Covert Surveillance Bill.

There is growing outrage around the country about the murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan in Limerick earlier this month, when he was apparently mistaken for a figure involved in a local criminal feud.

Mr Ahern said: “The bill will be going to Government tomorrow and if I get Government consent I will be launching the heads of the bill which we will publish tomorrow.”

The surveillance reform was first mooted last year but was not expected to come to cabinet for at least six months.

Intelligence gathered could be used in criminal trials but there is a question mark over whether or not search warrants would have to be granted by the courts.

The Government is also due to consider policing priorities on organised, gun and drug-related crime.

Last week there were 30 raids carried out on suspected gangsters across the country following the murder of Mr Geoghegan.

The rugby player (28), became the latest victim of Limerick’s feuding gun gangs when he was murdered on his way home from a friend’s house on Sunday November 9th.

On Tuesday, the Taoiseach held a high-level meeting with the Garda Commissioner, the Minster for Justice and the Attorney General.

Mr Ahern has instigated efforts to tackle organised crime in Limerick including city-wide CCTV, 24-hour covert operations, deploying the Emergency Response Unit and basing the country’s first regional rapid response unit in Munster.

New areas of reform are being looked at including retrials following an acquittal due to perjury or intimidation, new laws on covert surveillance and a review of the law on the videotaping of suspects.

Up to 40 associates of Limerick’s feuding criminal gangs are currently in prison, according to the Garda.

Of the 16 gangland murders in Limerick since 2003, people were facing charges in ten cases while the six others were currently live investigations.

The number of guns discharged in Limerick - seen as a barometer for gangland activity - has plummeted by 64 per cent in the past 12 months.

Fine Gael will table a Dail motion tomorrow night calling for further radical reform of criminal justice laws.

Included in the package are measures to allow video evidence in court and a reversal of funding cuts at the Director of Prosecutions' office.

It also calls for a digital radio for all gardai and the fast-tracking of legislation for a new DNA database.

The motion also calls for the expansion of both the Garda Emergency Response Unit and Criminal Assets