New legislation to allow for the use of body-worn cameras by Gardaí and their canine colleagues to tackle crime and protect national security is in the pipeline, and Justice Minister Simon Harris hopes to enact the Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022 as soon as possible to enable the roll-out of a pilot programme later this year.
The Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022, which will allow body-worn cameras and other crucial modern policing tools to be used by Gardaí, aims to significantly strengthen the capacity of the force to tackle crime and protect national security.
Introducing the new legislation before the Dáil recently, Acting Minister for Justice Simon Harris hopes to enact the Bill as soon as possible to allow Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to pilot the use of body-worn cameras later this year, prior to their widespread roll-out.
The Minister noted that the body-worn cameras will be hugely important in helping to protect frontline Gardaí in protecting the public, as well as being a key investigative tool. Under provisions of the legislation, Garda dogs will be equipped with small bodycams in a new initiative that’s expected to prove particularly useful in hostage-taking, stakeouts and other situations.
Real-time video footage from dogs has proved vital in some search and rescue missions abroad and has shown its worth in intelligence-gathering. The ‘spy-in-the-collar’ has the advantage that those under surveillance would not expect to be monitored by animals.
The Bill is in line with the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (published in 2019) and is a priority action in Justice Plan 2022. It is part of a suite of legislation being introduced by the Government to reform An Garda Síochána.
The Department of Justice has engaged extensively with An Garda Síochána, Garda oversight bodies and strategic partners during the preparation of this Bill, as well as the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.
“The government is committed to building stronger, safer communities. This means providing the force with the tools to fight crime in a modern era and to protect frontline Gardaí as they do their duty,” according to Minister Harris.
“Policing services across the world have gained significant benefits from the introduction of these technologies and people will have seen their effective use in fighting and solving crime in other jurisdictions.”