Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (408)

Noel Harrington


422 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the State agencies and bodies within the remit of his Department that have the power to enter or search premises in the course of an investigation; if they need a search warrant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35311/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources)

Details of State agencies and bodies under the auspices of my Department that have power to enter premises in the course of their investigations are set out in the table below:



An Post

Section 146 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, authorises an officer of an issuing agent to enter at any reasonable time any premises or specified place for the purposes of ascertaining whether there is a TV set there and a television licence is for the time being in force in respect of the premises or specified place authorising the keeping of a television set at the premises or specified place. An Post is the only authorised issuing agent at present. Section 69 of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983 and Section 142 of the Stamp Duties Management Act 1983 empower authorised persons, on foot of a warrant issued by the District Court, to enter, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., into any house, room, shop, or building of or belonging to the suspected person.


BGÉ officers have powers to enter premises in relation to gas safety under Section 2 of the Gas (Amendment) Act 1987 which empowers the Minister to make an order conferring powers on BGÉ to enter and inspect premises and take appropriate measures for the purpose of ensuring public safety and safety of property, and Section 9I of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 (as amended) authorises BGÉ to appoint a gas emergency officer to enter on to lands subject to a warrant of appointment. The purpose is to allow the officer to inspect lands and take such measures as appropriative to protect life and property from any danger arising from natural gas or LPG.


Section 9EA of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999, as amended, empowers the Commission to appoint a person to be an electrical investigation officer for the purposes of investigating safety related matters. The officer has powers to enter on any land or premises at any reasonable time.


ComReg officers are authorised to enter premises under 3 pieces of legislation. Section 39 of the Communications Regulation Act 2002, as amended, empowers authorised officers to enter and search premises at any reasonable time in the course of an investigation. If the officer is prevented from doing so, s/he can apply, under section 39(4) for a warrant to authorize such entry. Authorised officers may not enter dwellings houses without a warrant. Section 40 of the Act provides that a judge may issue such a warrant in this regard. Under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1926, as amended, authorised officers, in possession of warrants, are permitted to enter premises as part of their investigations.Regulation 15 of the European Communities (Radio Equipment and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment) Regulations, 2001 empowers authorised officers enter any premises but they may only enter a private dwelling where they have a warrant granted by a District Court judge, under Regulation 16.


Section 16 of the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1995, as amended by the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2012, empowers an authorised officer to apply to the District Court for a search warrant to enter premises and carry out such inspections as he/she deems fit for the purpose of determining whether or not an offence has been committed. In very limited circumstances a search warrant is not required under Section 16 but this only arises where an authorised officer has reasonable cause to suspect that before a warrant could be obtained evidence will be destroyed or disposed of.


Section 301 of the Fisheries (Consolidated) Act 1959, as amended, empowers authorised officers to enter premises such as fish shops and restaurants. Authorised officers may not enter dwelling houses without a warrant issued in accordance with section 297 of the 1959 Act.


Under sections 46 to 48 of the National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007, as amended, an authorised officer (which includes any officer of Customs and Excise, an auditor appointed by NORA with the consent of the Minister, or any other person appointed by the Minister (including officers of DCENR or NORA)) may enter and inspect premises for the purpose of obtaining any information necessary for the performance by the Minister or NORA of their functions under the 2007 Act. Where an authorised officer is prevented from entering any premises an application may be made for a search warrant. An authorised officer can not enter a private dwelling without a search warrant.