Minister for Justice Helen McEntee welcomes passage of legislation to provide bodycams for An Garda Síochána
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee welcomes passage of legislation to provide bodycams for An Garda Síochána
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD has this evening welcomed the passage of key legislation to provide An Garda Síochána with bodyworn cameras to give our Gardaí greater access to CCTV and to provide for community CCTV.
Minister McEntee said this puts An Garda Síochána on a clear path to begin rolling out bodycams on frontline Gardaí from next year, with Gardaí in Dublin City Centre having access to bodycams from next spring.
The Minister also welcomed the series of announcements from Commissioner Harris and the senior leadership team of An Garda Síochána today, including the accelerated expansion of the Garda Dog Unit – as provided for by Minister McEntee in Budget 2024.
Other measures include the provision of stronger incapacitating spray for all Gardaí; the provision of tasers to public order units, subject to training; more public order training for Gardaí; more and improved public order equipment and vehicles; more Garda data scientists to support the analysis of evidential material; the purchase of hand held video cameras for public order units; and the further expansion of public order tactics.
The Minister also said she looks forward to attending the early attestation of 151 new Gardaí on December 15, with a substantial cohort being deployed in the Dublin Metropolitan Region, from December 16.
This will be the latest class to graduate from Templemore as Garda recruitment gains momentum and helps us build stronger, safer communities.
Numbers in Templemore continue to increase, with between 700 and 800 new recruits entering the college this year.
135 trainees entered the training college in February, 154 entered in May, 174 entered in July, and another 177 entered the college last month, the largest intake since Covid.
One more class is due into Templemore on December 27, putting us on course to have between 700 and 800 into the college this year.
Budget 2024 provides for the recruitment of between 800 and 1,000 recruits next year.
Equipping Gardaí with bodycams is a major element of Minister McEntee’s drive to equip Gardaí with state of the art modern equipment and she welcomed the passage of the Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022 through the Oireachtas this evening.
It will provide a robust and modern statutory framework for the use by An Garda Síochána of recording devices to support their functions in investigating, detecting, preventing and prosecuting criminal offences, safeguarding against and preventing threats to public safety and public order, and in matters relating to the security of the State.
It will be accompanied by strong legislation to provide An Garda Síochána with Facial Recognition Technology.
The Bill will now be referred to the President to be signed into law.
“The Government is committed to ensuring An Garda Síochána have the resources, the equipment and the technology necessary to build stronger, safer communities.
“This includes ensuring that Gardaí have body worn cameras, which has been a priority of mind for some time.
“The shocking scenes we witnessed last Thursday night show how crucial bodycams, as well as tools such as Facial Recognition Technology, are to protecting Gardaí and help bring criminals to justice.
“These tough new laws will help An Garda Síochána identify perpetrators and gather evidence directly. It will help them deal with public order and with tackling incitement by the far right.
“But there will also be other benefits this Bill - greater access to Automatic Number Plate Recognition will help with longer term investigations, and reduce the time it takes to collate evidence and track suspects.”
Policing services across the world have gained significant benefits from the introduction of these technologies and I am confident that they will play an important role in improving Garda front-line capabilities and in ensuring the accurate recording of incidents.
“Particularly in light of the shocking scenes we all witnessed last Thursday night, this Bill and the changes it will make are more important than ever.
“Now that the Bill has successfully completed its final stage, I hope to see it enacted, commenced, and for body-worn cameras to be rolled out as soon as possible.
“I also welcome the Garda Senior Leadership Teams decision on a range of measures to support Gardaí in policing serious public order incidents and conducting criminal investigations in order to keep people safe.
“This includes running a separate proof of concept (POC) project involving the deployment of body-worn cameras in Dublin city centre. The cameras will be used in conjunction with a code of practice developed in line with the Digital Recording Bill.
“This relatively quick technical solution will make Body Worn Cameras available to city centre Gardaí in a shorter timeframe to the main solution by next spring.
The use of Facial Recognition Technology will be provided for separately in the new Garda Síochána (Digital Management and Facial Recognition Technology) Bill 2023.
“I have instructed officials to include riot and violent disorder in the new facial recognition bill which will be ready to go to Government within weeks.
I have also informed the Cabinet that I have asked An Garda Síochána to consider how to fast track the purchase of Garda bodycams.”
The Department of Justice has engaged extensively with An Garda Síochána, Garda oversight bodies and strategic partners during the preparation of this Bill, as well as the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.
The legislation is an overt policing Bill, dealing primarily with recording in public places, and is fully compliant with the GDPR and the accompanying law enforcement directive. Codes of practice will be developed for the use of the various technologies provided for in the Bill and will be included in a Statutory Instrument.
BACKGROUND AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE BILL
• The Programme for Government contained commitments to implement the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which called for the deployment of body worn cameras by An Garda Síochána to enhance the frontline policing capability.
• It also called for the extension of the powers governing Garda use of CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to help prevent crime and prosecute those involved in criminal activity.
• During drafting of the Bill, two new additional parts were considered and ultimately included. One addresses the outstanding recommendations of the Fennelly Commission of Investigation in relation to the recording of calls to or from the Garda Síochána.
• This includes 999/112 calls transferred from the ECAS system. The other part provides an updated statutory basis for Garda Commissioner to authorise the installation or operation of CCTV on Garda premises for the purposes of safeguarding persons or property, and the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences.
• Part 2 provides An Garda Síochána with a general power to operate recording devices in public places and in private dwellings for specific purposes. This includes the use of body-worn cameras by the Garda Síochána as recommended in the Report of the Commission of the Future of Policing in Ireland (COFPI), the use of body worn cameras on Garda animals and the use of recording devices on aircraft.
• Part 3 allows An Garda Síochána to expand its use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition Technology (ANPR). It provides a power for Garda personnel to use ANPR for specific purposes, and allows them to access ANPR data from records they generate and records transferred to them. It will allow the Minister to designate bodies that have networks of ANPR cameras as bodies who may transfer their ANPR records to An Garda Síochána. There are three bodies currently named in the Bill, daa Plc, Dublin Port Authority, and the National Roads Authority. Further bodies may be designated by the Minister in the future. This Part also allows for monitoring of movements of a particular vehicle by the Gardaí with approval from a superintendent or higher for a period of up to 3 months, after which, authorisation must be sought from a judge of the District Court.
• Part 4 addresses outstanding recommendations of the Fennelly Commission of Investigation report to have a statutory basis for the recording of calls to and from the Garda Síochána including emergency calls transferred to them from 999/112 and other emergency and non-emergency lines.
• Part 5 replaces the CCTV provisions in section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, and related SI. The provisions of this part take into account the changes to data protection law in the State. Authorisation to install or operate CCTV for the purposes specified in this Part may only be given to local authorities or to members of Garda personnel. Community groups will no longer be able to apply for authorisation. There are specific provisions relating to review, revocation and the expiry of the authorisations. Authorisations will only be granted for a period of up to 5 years. Transitional provisions provided for in Part 1 allow existing CCTV scheme authorisations to remain in force for a period of up to four years from the date of commencement.
• Part 6 provides for processing of third-party CCTV by Garda personnel. This Part provides specific powers to members of Garda personnel to process a live feed of a third-party’s CCTV where it has been approved either by an authorisation issued by a judge, or internally by an independent superior officer for a period of up to 72 hours.
• Part 7 contains provisions for the installation and operation of CCTV on Garda premises. This provides an updated legal basis for the installation and operation of CCTV on Garda premises for the purpose of safeguarding persons or property and for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of offences.
• Part 8 sets out that a code or codes of practice must be drawn up by the Garda Commissioner having regard to the operation of, and any associated procedures or agreements in respect of, Parts 2 to 6. It provides what a code or codes of practice must incorporate, the parties and stakeholders with whom the Garda Commissioner must consult, and the information that must be provided to them which includes the results of any data protection impact assessments and human rights assessments. The draft code or codes must also be published on the Garda website for a period of time. Once a draft code is submitted to the Minister, the Minister may, by order, declare it a code of practice. A code of practice has to be reviewed at least every 5 years.
• Part 9 provides for a review of certain Parts of the Bill by a designated Judge of the High Court. This applies to Part 3 and Part 6. The designated Judge’s functions will be to report to the Taoiseach at least once every 12 months on matters the Judge considers should be reported, relating to the operation of those Parts.