Written Answers. - Garda Interview Procedures.

Mary Harney

Question:

14 Miss Harney asked the Minister for Justice if she will provide for the video-taping of all interviews by the Garda Síochána, particularly in view of the recent change in the law which removes the absolute right to silence to alleged drug traffickers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9197/97]

Pilot trials on the use of audio and audio visual recording of interviews with suspects are ongoing in four selected Garda stations — the Bridewells in Dublin and Cork and Tallaght and Portlaoise stations. These trials are being overseen by a steering committee under the chairmanship of Circuit Court Judge Esmond Smyth whose task it is to assess them and report to me on whether an effective and economic basis can be found for a national scheme. Up until recently the pilot trials had been in operation at these stations on a non-statutory voluntary basis. However, on average, only 8 per cent of suspects agreed to have their interviews recorded. The steering committee advised me that they would be unable to reach definitive conclusions on the effects of electronic recording on the basis of such a low percentage take-up and they accordingly recommended that I make regulations under section 27 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984, making it mandatory that interviews in the pilot trial stations be recorded, subject to the gardaí having a discretion to discontinue electronic recording where a suspect objects to continued recording.

Having accepted the recommendation of the steering committee, I made the Criminal Justice, 1984 (Electronic Recording of Interviews) Regulations, 1997 on 11 February of this year, copies of which are available in the Library. These Regulations provide for the electronic recording of interviews with suspects detained under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984, section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939 and, as adverted to by the Deputy in her question, section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996, in the four Garda stations participating in the pilot scheme.

Now that the regulations are in place the committee expect that the pilot scheme will begin to produce the data on which a proper evaluation can be based. In this regard, the services of a research consultant have been engaged for the purpose of carrying out the necessary statistical analysis of the data emanating from each of the pilot scheme stations. Unfortunately, because the operation of the trials on a voluntary basis proved unsatisfactory, the time needed to compile data and evaluate results will be greater than originally anticipated. It will probably now take at least another year before the steering committee will be in a position to report to me.
However, I believe that it would be wrong to try to introduce a generalised system for the audio-visual recording of interviews ahead of the completion of the pilot trials. Once the pilot scheme has been completed and the steering committee submits it's report to me, the Deputy can be assured that there will be no delay on my part in moving to the introduction of a national scheme of electronic recording of interviews with all persons detained at Garda stations if the pilot scheme shows that an effective and economic basis can be found for so doing.