Minister says GSOC surveillance powers could be changed to need judge’s approval


A government minister has suggested a change to the powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) to access phones, so that it could only be done with the approval of a judge.

The Cabinet will be briefed on the issue this morning by the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald after it emerged that GSOC had accessed the phones of journalists.

Powers introduced last year gave GSOC the same powers as Garda Superintendents to access phones.

It comes after it was revealed that two reporters had their phones accessed by the Garda Ombudsman, over complaints about reports on the death of model Katy French.

However Minister Brendan Howlin says there may need to be more oversight.

“It strikes me that the situation in Britain is one that we could look at – whereby if there is a very strong view by GSOC that particular phones of journalists need to be accessed that that could only be done with the authority of a judge” he said.

“But we’ll see what the minister for justice brings to Cabinet and what her views are” he added.

While Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday called for an overhaul of the legislation, saying it is valid in cases of national security but not when it comes to the monitoring of journalists phones.

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Camilla Wood

UK based Legal Aid Lawyer

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