Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she is satisfied with the current Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009, which allows for the attachment and use of tracking and global positioning system devices, without the need for judicial authorisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19949/15]
484. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to amend the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009, in particular, the provisions that allow for any Garda, above the rank of superintendent, to internally approve another Garda to undertake covert surveillance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19951/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 482 and 484 together.
The Deputy will be aware that the legislative basis for the carrying out of covert surveillance in this State is the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009.
From the outset I should clarify that, as Minister for Justice and Equality, I have no role in authorising surveillance under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009. Under the 2009 Act, authorisations for surveillance are granted by a judge of the District Court on application by a superior officer of An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners or the Defence Forces in circumstances which are set out in the Act.
The Act provides that a member of the Garda Síochána, a member of the Defence Forces or an officer of the Revenue Commissioners shall carry out surveillance only in accordance with a valid authorisation. In that regard an application for a valid authorisation must be made by a superior officer of An Garda Síochána to a judge of the District Court where the officer is of the view that:
(a) as part of an operation or investigation being conducted by the Garda Síochána concerning an arrestable offence, the surveillance being sought to be authorised is necessary for the purposes of obtaining information as to whether the offence has been committed or as to the circumstances relating to the commission of the offence, or obtaining evidence for the purposes of proceedings in relation to the offence,
(b) the surveillance being sought to be authorised is necessary for the purpose of preventing the commission of arrestable offences, or
(c) the surveillance being sought to be authorised is necessary for the purpose of maintaining the security of the State.
Exceptionally, in accordance with Section 7 of the Act, an approval may be granted without recourse to the District Court in very limited circumstances as set out in the Act where grounds of urgency exist. An approval may also be granted in accordance with Section 8 where tracking devices are to be used. The approval for the use of a tracking device is limited to providing information on the location of a person, vehicle or thing.
In this regard the Designated Judge appointed to oversee the operation of the Act under Section 12 has noted, in his most recent report to the Taoiseach, that he was satisfied that applications under section 7 of the Act were properly made and that, where approvals were granted under section 8, that appropriate consideration had been given to the proportionality of the actions for which approval was sought. He was also satisfied that the provisions of the Act had been complied with in all respects.
I should also add that in the performance of his statutory role, the Designated Judge has unimpeded access to all documentation and personnel relevant to this legislation.
He commented favourably on his experiences in his dealings with An Garda Síochána and concluded that it was evident from the files inspected that the use of such devices has been of great assistance to An Garda Síochána in the detection and prosecution of offences and in the monitoring of persons suspected of being involved in activities which could threaten the security of the State.
The Deputy may also wish to note that in addition to independent judicial oversight by a designated Judge of the High Court, a complaints mechanism is provided for in the legislation whereby any individual who believes that they have been the victim of improper use of the legislation may have their complaint investigated by an independent Complaints Referee.