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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

New garda powers will grant access to mobile phones

A new legislation which is being unveiled today will allow gardaí to access an individual’s mobile phone or any electronic device.

An individual who refuses to hand over a device password to gardaí could face a five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to €30,000.

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The new legislation comes as crime has become more online-oriented and is being carried out on mobile phones as well as computers and other electronic devices.

Gardaí believe that this new legislation is vital for strengthening searches as the pandemic has given rise to large numbers of crimes such as low-value drug transactions.

Gardaí stated that this trend of technology-based crime would continue long after the pandemic so it’s believed that this new legislation is necessary.

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The An Garda Síochána (Powers Bill) is to be published by the Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys. For the first time, gardaí will be obliged to make a written record in every case where an individual is placed under a stop and search procedure.

Under the Provisions of the Bill, gardaí will no longer be obliged to make a written record of interviews with suspects and witnesses upon the availability of other recording options.

It is understood that this will provide clarity on stop and search statistics. These would include the gender and ethnicity of those being stopped as well as what cities and areas the stop and searches take place most frequently.

Measures are also being implemented to assist people who are being detained by gardaí and have children to care for or have a disability, as well as being intoxicated.

Humphreys stated, “The law in this area is currently very complex, spread across the common law, hundreds of pieces of legislation, constitutional and EU law,” while adding that bringing it together will bring clarity and transparency to police powers that are used by gardaí.

She said that the aim is to create a system that is both clear and straightforward for gardaí to use as well as providing an understanding of what powers gardaí can use and what an individual’s rights are in those circumstances.

A criminal offence will be created from the new Bill which will make password refusal an offence, with the most serious offences being tried in indictment where an individual will face serious sanctions.

In less serious cases, an individual can be summarily prosecuted which could carry a 12-month prison sentence and a fine of up to €5,000.

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