Concern expressed over recording of calls at Mullingar garda station

Gardaí will not say what information if any, was recorded in telephone calls to and from Mullingar Garda Station.

A spokesperson said it is “not appropriate” to comment further while a report is being compiled at the request of the Minister for Justice.

It emerged yesterday that when a public tender was held in 2007 for a range of telecoms, video, and radio equipment, Mullingar was one of the stations included.

But no clarification has been forthcoming about exactly what happened in Mullingar.

The Cabinet heard this week that thousands of hours of recordings have recently come to light, separate to 999 calls which are routinely recorded.

The Irish Examiner newspaper revealed that almost half a million euro was spent on fitting out 21 stations, including Mullingar in 2007, with state-of-the-art digital recording systems.

The contract was for 24/7 recording, playback, and archiving systems to be linked to Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park, as well as the Dublin Headquarters at Harcourt Street, where the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, CAB, and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.

The Garda Press Office confirmed to this newspaper that the public tender was held in 2007 but gave no information relating to Mullingar Garda Station.

The Mullingar Advertiser posed a number of questions to An Garda Siochana.

Gardaí would not say if taping actually took place in Mullingar until November last year when an order issued that all taping was to cease, and would not say what, if any calls or lines were recorded.

An Garda Síochána could give no information on the policy regarding what tapes were listened to and how long the recordings are archived.

There was no answer to a query about whether there was taping of conversations between solicitors and clients, or if and when people will be notified that their calls may have been recorded.

No information was forthcoming on what measures are now in place or what people should do if they are concerned their calls may have been recorded.

Because An Garda Siochana is subject to the National Archive Act, recordings cannot be deleted unless sanctioned by the director of the National Archive.

The office of the Data Protection Commissioner told the Mullingar Advertiser that they are awaiting the terms of reference of the Government’s Commission of Investigation into the recordings, before making any further comment.

Section 4 of the Data Protection Act does allow the public to make a request in writing to An Garda Siochana for any personal data held about them, being as specific as possible about the date and time of the call.

Local solicitors have expressed concern that privileged conversations between solicitors and clients could have been recorded.

Solicitors are entitled to full disclosure of all information held by gardaí against their clients in a case, whether or not it ia considered of relevance to the defence.

There is also a question about whether solicitors were actually provided with full disclosure if recordings were not provided, potentially placing thousands of convictions in jeopardy. 

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