No effective sanction for Police abuse of Irish data retention system

By EDRi · August 24, 2011

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Deutsch: [Irland: Keine wirksamen Sanktionen gegen polizeilichen Missbrauch von Vorratsdaten |]

Recent media reports have confirmed that an Irish Garda (Police) detective
sergeant will not face criminal prosecution and will keep her job despite
abusing the data retention system to spy on an ex-boyfriend.

In November 2010 the annual report of the judge who oversees the Irish data
retention system confirmed media reports that the sergeant, who then worked
in the Garda intelligence division, had abused her position by accessing the
phone records of her former boyfriend, tracking details of his
communications. It appears that this came to light when the former boyfriend
became suspicious that she knew about calls which he had made since they
separated, and not as the result of any internal audit or other safeguards.
Following a Garda investigation, the Director of Public Prosecutions has
directed that no criminal charges will be brought against the sergeant, and
after an internal disciplinary process she will retain her job. Despite this
abuse of trust, the sergeant has been transferred to the Garda Special
Branch, an anti-terrorist division within the police force, where she will
continue to have access to sensitive information.

The matter was also referred to the independent Garda Siochana Ombudsman
Commission which decided not to investigate the matter further.

A number of significant questions are left unanswered. In relation to the
specific case: Why was no prosecution brought? Why was it considered
appropriate to leave a person found to have abused sensitive records in a
position of responsibility, much less the Special Branch? Why was this
person not dismissed?

More general questions are also raised: Was this part of a wider pattern of
abuse? Is there an adequate internal audit trail of data retention requests?
If so, who is responsible for reviewing that trail? Does the designated
judge access a sample of requests from the preceding year to ensure that the
surveillance was appropriate? If not, what other steps are taken to review
the approximately 15 000 data retention requests which are made every year?

Given the lack of adequate sanctions for this abuse and the failure of
either the designated judge or the Department of Justice to provide answers
to these questions it is hard to see how the Irish public can be expected to
have any confidence in the data retention system.

Report of the Designated Judge (26.01.2010)

Judge’s report reveals allegations that Garda used phone records to spy on
her ex (20.02.2011)

Garda detective quizzed for ‘spying on her ex’, Mail on Sunday, (27.06.2011)
Garda accused of bugging her ex-boyfriend, The Sunday Times, (20.02.2011)
Garda who spied on her boyfriend will keep job, The Sunday Times,

(Contribution by TJ McIntyre – EDRi-member Digital Rights Ireland)