Dáil Éireann - Volume 557 - 20 November, 2002

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

  Mr. Costello: This matter has come to my attention with the publication recently of the annual report for 2001 of the Garda Complaints Board. The report expresses utmost concern that there was much delay in the installation of equipment and cameras in cells and interview rooms in Garda stations. In 1979 the Barra Ó Briain report into the detention of suspects in Garda custody was published. It was initiated in 1977 after the allegations about the heavy gang activities in the mid-1970s. It recommended that all interrogations and interviews should be recorded on video and tape.

  Twenty-three years later the Garda Complaints Board is expressing concern about the slow progress in this matter. Clearly the absence of such equipment hampers the work of the Garda Complaints Board. There have been many complaints in recent days about that body because nearly all its investigations tend to run into the sand. The reason partly is that conflicting statements are made and there is no evidence in the case of interviews taking place in Garda custody to verify statements. This equipment would be a protection for gardaí and suspects. Video and tape evidence could be used in the event of a complaint or a court case.

  The previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said that he had no intention of introducing the equipment in all Garda stations. In a report in The Irish Times on 14 November a Garda spokesperson said that the Department was in ongoing talks with the Garda authorities on the widespread installation of cameras in the reception and cell areas of Garda stations. The spokesperson was unable to say when a concerted installation process might begin. Only a handful of stations have the equipment installed. In some stations the equipment is available but the cameras are not. An effort is not being made and the discussions which are ongoing between the Department and the Garda leave something to be desired.

  I ask the Minister of State to make a proactive statement tonight as to when the Department and the Garda authorities will finish these discussions and when equipment will be installed. The efforts of the Garda Complaints Board are largely in vain on this matter and it makes it more difficult [1416] for it to unravel the validity or otherwise of complaints. It is about time this matter was put to rest.

  Mr. O'Dea: On behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I wish to set out the position with regard to the introduction of closed circuit television systems in Garda stations. The Minister is very conscious of the general potential of modern technology to enhance the criminal justice process, including of course the safeguarding of the rights of those in custody. A system for the video recording of interviews of persons in Garda custody has been widely installed in Garda stations over the past two years. This represents a significant additional safeguard against ill-treatment of those in custody as well as acting as a protection for members of the force in certain circumstances.

  In this regard, the Minister is aware that the issue of installing closed circuit television cameras in Garda stations has been raised by the Garda Complaints Board in its report for 2000, which was recently laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. In that report, the board recommends the use of CCTV, particularly in the reception and cell areas of Garda stations. It points to this being a common area of complaint and a difficulty the board is faced with when no independent third party evidence is available. In this regard, CCTV evidence available from both street and business cameras has proved useful to the board in the investigation of a number of cases, including allegations of serious assaults.

  This recommendation of the Garda Complaints Board, founded as it is on its experience of investigating complaints arising from incidents in Garda stations, deserves serious consideration and the Minister has asked his officials to examine the proposal, in consultation with Garda management, to work through the issues to which the proposal gives rise and to see how best the matter might be taken forward. Discussions have commenced with the Garda Síochána on the matter, and the Minister looks forward to considering the conclusions of the examination of the proposal.