Dublin, 31 October 2019
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said that the use of body-worn cameras by An Garda Síochana is likely to breach privacy rights, affect a range of other rights and hinder community policing.
In a submission to the Department of Justice and Equality, ICCL debunked seven justifications which have been used by the State to bring in the use of invasive and unnecessary body-worn cameras. ICCL’s Senior Research and Policy Officer, Doireann Ansbro, said:
Body-worn cameras were first rolled out in the US, where police officers have repeatedly been accused of racist violence including the killing of young innocent black men. Bringing in these cameras in the US was promoted as a way to stop the race based use of force. That is a very different context from the Irish one, where our police officers are generally unarmed.
ICCL sees no appropriate justification for their obvious intrusion on our privacy. Mass surveillance of the population is extremely problematic. ICCL believes that the infringements to fundamental rights far outweigh the supposed benefits of this technology. There is no good evidence for the positive impact of their use and therefore no good reason for their introduction in Ireland.
ICCL warned that body-worn cameras are likely to give rise to constitutional concerns around the right to privacy and potentially impact on the rights to free expression, free assembly and free association. For example, a person may decide not to take part in a protest if they know Gardaí will be wearing the technology, or they may restrict what they say or with whom they associate for fear of being recorded.
Footage from proposed body-worn cameras for An Garda Síochána, if used as evidence in court, could add unfair weight to the police version of events due to being under the exclusive control of the garda wearing it. The rights group said that undue reliance on this evidence may impact on the right of suspects to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
ICCL compiled seven justifications used by An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice to support the roll-out of body-worn cameras and unpacked them all. The campaign group found no evidence of international best practice standards on the use of body-worn cameras and found inconsistent and inconclusive findings relating to their impact on the use of force, debunking the oft-cited Rialto study. The rights group further said it could find “no evidence” that the technology increases admissions and early guilty pleas.
ICCL said that, rather than increasing public trust and confidence, body-worn cameras may undermine recent progress made in reforming An Garda Síochána in line with human rights standards. ICCL also disputed that the technology would automatically increase accountability and said it seemed unlikely its use would de-escalate dangerous situations.
The rights body is urging the government to immediately halt the roll-out of the technology, saying that the potential for intrusive data-gathering using such technologies was “beyond concerning”.
Find the full submission to the Department of Justice at this link: https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/ICCL-Body-Worn-Cameras-DoJ-submission.pdf
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is Ireland’s leading independent human rights campaigning organisation. We monitor, educate and campaign to secure human rights for everyone in Ireland.
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