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Consolidation of #Policing powers welcomed – McAdam

This week Justice Minister Heather Humphreys TD published the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill following approval by Government.

The draft legislation provides the necessary legal basis to address three key objectives set out in the Justice Plan 2021, including:

⁃ The consolidation of police powers

⁃ Targeted reforms to improve police effectiveness

⁃ New fundamental rights provisions to ensure rights protected

In line with a recommendation of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, the Bill will provide a clear and transparent statutory basis for the existing police powers of search, arrest and detention, supported by statutory codes of practice.

It will also have a strong focus on human rights. This includes both the rights of suspected or accused persons, as well as the human rights of all members of society to live free from violence, abuse, crime and fear.

The legislation presented by the Minister and agreed by Government will provide a clear and transparent statutory basis for the existing police powers of search, arrest and detention, supported by statutory codes of practice. These changes are all in line with a recommendation included in the report published by the Commission of the Future of Policing in Ireland.

It will also have a strong focus on human rights. This includes both the rights of suspected or accused persons, as well as the human rights of all members of society to live free from violence, abuse, crime and fear.

Specific measures that have been included in the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill are:

⁃ the introduction of a single power of arrest. This will increase the scope of Garda arrest powers, but also make the power subject to conditions to ensure the arrest is necessary in the particular circumstances. This is in line with other common law jurisdictions

⁃ the Garda caution will be put on a statutory basis and the requirement for a written contemporaneous note of a Garda interview will be removed in cases where it can be recorded by other means

⁃ placing current practice on a statutory footing, a statutory right for the accused to have their lawyer present at interview will be introduced

⁃ a power for An Garda Síochána and other bodies to require a person to provide passwords for access to electronic devices when carrying out a search warrant

⁃ a new requirement to make a written record of a stop and search. This will facilitate the collection of data necessary to assess the effectiveness and use of the relevant powers by Garda management and oversight bodies

⁃ statutory codes of practice will be drawn up to provide guidance for Gardaí in using their powers under the Bill

⁃ special measures will be taken for suspects who are children and suspects who may have impaired capacity (whether because of an intellectual disability, mental illness, physical disability or intoxication)

You can read the General Scheme of the Bill at https://bit.ly/3cPHcQk.

I share the sentiments of Minister Humphreys in seeing this draft legislation in conjunction the implementation of the other recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, will improve and copper-fasten a policing practice which is focused, intelligence-based and underpinned by community confidence and support.

As a former Chair of the Policing Committee for the North Inner City and Dublin Central, I believe the changes brought for this week can help enhance and further strengthen the bedrock of safeguards for good policing – trust, legitimacy and authority.

raymcadam View All

Fine Gael Councillor - North Inner City
Leader, Fine Gael, Dublin City Council
Chair, Urban Form & Planning Strategic Policy Committee

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