On April 15th, 2015, the Supreme Court delivered what Nial Fennelly, a retired judge of the court and former advocate general of the European Court of Justice, has described as “the most astounding judgment ever handed down by an Irish court”. By the slimmest of majorities, the court overhauled a longstanding rule of evidence so that evidence obtained unconstitutionally can now be admitted where officers of the State claim to have no knowledge of the breach.
Five years later, ICCL commissioned a report on the impact of the new rule.
Its findings, elicited from surveys and interviews with established criminal law practitioners, are shocking in terms of the stunning about-turn that the decision has precipitated in the courts’ approach to unconstitutionally obtained evidence. Most such evidence now goes in at trial, with many practitioners saying that the courts operate a presumption in favour of the admission of such evidence.