- Legislation will provide legal basis for use of ‘body cams’ by Gardaí
- Use of CCTV and number plate recognition technology will also be extended
- Controls to be put in place to ensure use is proportionate at all times
29 April 2021
The Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys TD, has today published the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Digital Recording) Bill, following approval by Government earlier this week.
The Bill will provide a legal basis for the deployment and use of body-worn cameras (or ‘body cams’) by members of An Garda Síochána; and the extension of the circumstances in which Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) devices may be used by An Garda Síochána.
Welcoming the publication, Minister Humphreys said,
“Justice Plan 2021 committed to the publication of the general scheme of this important legislation in early 2021. The legislation is intended to provide a robust statutory framework for the use of recording devices in public places by An Garda Síochána in the course of their policing duties. The Scheme will provide powers for Gardaí to use a variety of recording devices, subject to appropriate standards, control and oversight.”
The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland recommended legislation to provide for the use of body-worn cameras by Gardaí, in order to support their front-line duties in criminal investigations and the maintenance of public safety. Body-worn cameras are an effective policing and evidentiary tool, allowing Gardaí to record incidents in real time as they occur. They provide accurate depictions of events, which can influence the behaviours of both members of the public and also of members of An Garda Síochána.
ANPR is a highly valuable policing and intelligence tool which can lead to efficiencies in the detection of criminal offences and assist in identifying perpetrators in serious crime investigations. The general scheme provides that Gardaí can use ANPR enabled devices to detect, for example, road traffic offences. The legislation will also allow Gardaí access to ANPR data gathered by other bodies, thereby assisting Gardaí in crime investigation.
The legislation will further provide for a new regime on the use of CCTV, both at fixed locations and in Garda vehicles. CCTV is currently dealt with under section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005, which will be repealed and replaced.
The Minister added,
“I am proposing some changes to the operation of CCTV due to concerns raised by the Data Protection Commissioner in her review of how current schemes are operated. In tandem with the drafting of the Bill, I will carry out a further review to identify how best to support the continued input of community groups into CCTV operations in their local areas.”
The Scheme provides for a robust oversight framework with requirements for statutory codes of practice, including requirements to conduct data protection impact assessments and human rights impact assessments prior to the finalisation of the codes. There will also be a role for the Independent Examiner, to be established in the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill, to review the use of the third party data provisions.
The Minister concluded,
“While enhanced policing capabilities are something that is necessary, these powers must be subject to sufficient controls and oversight to ensure they are proportionate at all times.
“We will therefore ensure there is a robust statutory framework in place to set standards and procedures and to provide appropriate oversight of the use of the powers, particularly where they could infringe on the privacy or data protection rights of citizens.”
Notes for Editors :
The General Scheme of the Bill can be found here: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/General_Scheme_of_Garda_Síochána_(Digital_Recording)_Bill
The key provisions of the General Scheme are as follows:
- Provision for Gardaí to use body-worn cameras, which includes a requirement that the body-worn camera is worn on the uniform of the Garda member and that there is a visible indicator when the camera is operating.
- Provision for Gardaí to use other recording devices such as mobile phones, other hand-held cameras and drones on an ad hoc basis linked to their functions.
- A requirement that a statutory code of practice be published by the Garda Commissioner to set standards for the use of body-warn and handheld cameras. The code will be prepared in consultation with stakeholders and oversight bodies and will be submitted to the Minister for Justice for approval and signing by way of regulation.
- Provision for the Garda Commissioner to authorise the installation of CCTV at fixed sites. This is currently dealt with under 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. The Data Protection Commissioner identified a number of issues with the current scheme and further controls have been introduced in this scheme, such as the requirement to review authorisations after a set time period and a requirement for joint data control agreements to be in place.
- Provision for the Garda Commissioner to install and operate mobile CCTV in Garda vehicles.
- A requirement that a statutory code of practice be published by the Garda Commissioner to set standards for the use of CCTV and mobile CCTV. The code will be prepared in consultation with stakeholders and oversight bodies and will be submitted to the Minister for Justice for approval and signing by way of regulation.
- Provision for Gardaí to seek court authorisation to access third party CCTV for a set period of time. This will support Gardaí in accessing camera coverage in areas where they do not currently have any devices.
- Provision for Gardaí to access ANPR feeds from strategic partners, such as Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Dublin Airport Authority and Dublin Port Authority on an ongoing basis. This will allow Gardaí to receive and store ANPR data from third parties, which can then be accessed to investigate criminal offences.
- A role for the Independent Examiner, to be established by the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill, in reviewing Garda use of the provisions relating to third-party data. This is another key oversight to ensure that these powers are being used appropriately.