New powers to allow Gardaí request the passcode for smartphones
Under the new legislation, it will be a crime to refuse to provide it.
A person who refuses to provide a password for a mobile phone or electronic device to Gardaí could face five years in prison and a fine of up to €30,000 under new legislation.
Under the new plans outlined by Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys on Monday, there will be an overhaul of how Gardaí operate, including the right to request passcodes and passwords for electronic devices.
The new legislation is based on the recommendations of the the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
New measures included in the Bill include:
- 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).
“Bringing it together will make the use of police powers by gardaí clear, transparent and accessible,” Humphreys said in a statement.
“The aim is to create a system that is both clear and straightforward for gardaí to use and easy for people to understand what powers gardaí can use and what their rights are in those circumstances.”
"At the same time, where we are proposing to extend additional powers to gardaí, we are also strengthening safeguards.
"The Bill will have a strong focus on the fundamental rights and procedural rights of the accused. I believe this will maintain the crucial balance which is key to our criminal justice system, while ensuring greater clarity and streamlining of Garda powers."