15 October 2020
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) today publishes an investigation in which experienced solicitors and barristers speak of their concern that new rules on evidence give Gardaí a green light to breach rights with no consequences.
This is particularly alarming given reports by lawyers that they have seen gardaí lying when giving evidence, threatening to arrest close relatives, planting evidence and physically assaulting people. There are also concerns that the rule allows the admission of evidence gathered in clear breach of privacy rights.
The investigation was carried out by Claire Hamilton, professor of criminology at Maynooth University. It focuses on the so-called “green garda” rule under which evidence obtained unconstitutionally can be admitted if the Court believes the breach was accidental. The rule was introduced five years ago following a Supreme Court decision.
Launching the investigation, ICCL’s Doireann Ansbro:
“This investigation reveals that most unconstitutionally obtained evidence now goes in at trial. Many of the practitioners interviewed said that the Courts actually operate a presumption in favour of the admission of such evidence. Let’s be clear, this is evidence that has violated our Constitutional and human rights.”
The net effect of this is that many defence solicitors and barristers say they no longer challenge evidence that might have been gathered in a way that violates human rights. Some legal practitioners (or “lawyers interviewed”) also said that over the past five years, they have advised more clients to plead guilty because “you know you are not going to win”.
Liam Herrick, Executive Director of ICCL, said:
“ICCL is recommending that the Courts clarify this issue urgently. We need new guidance that makes clear that if evidence is gathered in a way that breaches someone’s constitutional rights it must be excluded from a trial.”
The investigation will be launched this evening with a private seminar for legal practitioners. As part of a separate EU wide investigation, ICCL has identified a number of other issues with how evidence is gathered and used in Irish Courts. Expert panellists from the legal profession will discuss remedies for rights breached during the gathering of evidence, alongside the adequacy of legal aid, and whether pre-trial hearings could reduce delays in trials.
Full investigation here: https://www.iccl.ie/a-revolution-in-principle/
Read Claire Hamilton’s opinion piece in the Irish Times:
Join the call for independent inspections of garda holding cells to prevent assaults and threats: https://www.iccl.ie/a-country-where-everyone-is-safe/
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is Ireland’s oldest independent human rights campaigning body. We monitor, educate and campaign to secure all human rights for everyone.
For comment: Doireann Ansbro and/or Liam Herrick
Contact Sinéad Nolan:email@example.com