- Government intends to enact Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022 swiftly to allow for body worn camera pilot this year
- Use of body-worn cameras will protect frontline Gardaí and deter criminal activity
- Strengthened powers to be introduced around CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) software
1 February 2023
The Minister for Justice, Simon Harris TD, has introduce legislation in the Dáil to allow for the use of body worn cameras and other crucial modern policing tools by An Garda Síochána.
The Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022, which will be taken at second stage today, will significantly strengthen the capacity of An Garda Síochána to tackle crime and protect national security.
The use of body worn cameras will also be hugely important in helping to protect frontline Gardaí as they do their duty in keeping people safe.
Minister Harris hopes to enact the Bill as soon as possible to allow Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to pilot the use of body-worn cameras later this year, prior to their widespread roll-out.
The Bill is in line with the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which was published in 2019, and is a priority action in Justice Plan 2022. It is part of a suite of legislation being introduced by the Government to reform An Garda Síochána.
Among the central elements of the Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022 are:
- Allowing for recording from body worn cameras, helicopters, aircraft, Garda dogs, drones, mobile devices and tablets
- Extending 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
- Providing powers for An Garda Síochána to access third party CCTV on a live-feed basis to support them in carrying out their function, subject to strict guidelines and oversight
- Placing a statutory obligation on the Garda Commissioner to prepare Codes of Practice, which will be submitted to the Minister for Justice for approval, regarding the operation of recording devices and CCTV
- Work is already underway on these codes and they will address standards to be applied, confidentiality, security, storage, access and retention of data
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.
Minister Harris said:
The Government is committed to building stronger, safer communities. This means providing An Garda Síochána with the tools to fight crime in a modern era and to protect our frontline Gardaí as they do their duty.
Policing services across the world have gained significant benefits from the introduction of these technologies and people will have seen their effective use in fighting and solving crime in other jurisdictions.
I firmly believe that our Gardaí must have the same tools as their colleagues in police services across Europe and around the world.
I am confident that body worn cameras will play an important role in improving Garda front-line capabilities and in ensuring the accurate recording of incidents.
Garda use of this technology will be primarily for the investigation, detection, prevention and prosecution of criminal offences, the safeguarding against and the prevention of threats to public safety and public order, and in matters relating to the security of the State.
The Minister added that body worn cameras are also hugely important in protecting Gardaí, as well as being a key investigative tool.
Under the Bill, body worn cameras must be visible on the clothing of the Garda member and have a light showing when they are recording.
The Bill also contains a broad definition of recording device to ensure the legislation is future proofed.
Minister Harris added:
Members of An Garda Síochána are placing themselves at great personal risk and we must support them in every way we can as they do their jobs.
Attacks on our brave Gardaí, or attempts to intimidate them, must be utterly condemned, and body worn cameras will be key to ensuring they are protected as they carry out their duties.
Body worn cameras are also a key investigative tool. For example, I know from speaking to frontline Gardaí that the first moments after they arrive at the scene of domestic abuse are key to gathering evidence which can then be used to protect the victim and ensure the perpetrator is brought to justice.
The new Bill will regulate the use of recording devices in public spaces; where An Garda Síochána have a power of entry authorised by law; and in places where they have implied or express permission to be.
Provision will also be made for recording to be carried out from Garda helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and drones – which will be key to tackling organised crime gangs and protecting national security.
Minister Harris said:
Another key area in the Bill is the new arrangements for CCTV schemes. CCTV schemes are currently dealt with under section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005, which will be repealed and replaced. This Bill sets out how CCTV schemes should be managed in the future to ensure that they reflect changes in the law on foot of the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation and the Law Enforcement Directive. This will include an important role for Community Safety Partnerships, which will develop Community Safety Plans, with strong local input.
and he continued:
The Bill will also allow for the processing of live feeds of third party CCTV, and the recording of certain calls to and from An Garda Síochána and providing An Garda Síochána with an updated legal basis for the installation and operation of CCTV on Garda premises.
An Garda Síochána are working on draft codes of practice for, amongst other things, body worn cameras and CCTV, with a view to ensuring they are ready for when the Bill’s enactment.
In creating these codes, there will be a number of bodies with whom the Garda Commissioner will have to consult and there will be impact assessments, on human rights and data protection that have to be carried out.
Each code of practice will be submitted to the Minister for approval and once approved, it will be contained in a Ministerial Order, thereby making it a public document.
On the issue of Automatic Number Plate Recognition Data, Minister Harris said it is important for Gardaí to be able to access ANPR Data from the cameras of organisations who are already operating ANPR cameras at strategic locations in the State.
The initial bodies that are to be included are the National Roads Authority (motorway cameras), DAA (Dublin and Cork Airport ANPR cameras) and Dublin Port.
The Minister for Justice may designate other bodies to be included but it would only be of use where an organisation has an extensive network of ANPR cameras in place.
Minister Harris said he expects strong support from across the House for this key piece of legislation, with contains a series of provisions to protect frontline members of An Garda Síochána and help them tackle crime.