asked the Minister for Justice if he will state the reasons for the arrest of a person (name supplied) in Dublin on 18th February 1977 and the person's detention in a cell at the Bridewell Garda station, in view of the fact that her only activity appears to have been the handling of leaflets entitled Know Your Rights (copy supplied); and if he will state the supervision he exercises and the criteria he applies to ensure that the Emergency Powers Act, 1976 is not used as an instrument of harassment.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Dublin Arrest.
I could not agree to specify publicly—or for that matter at all—why any particular person may have been arrested by the Garda Síochána and, as far as I am aware, it has never been the practice of the Minister for Justice to do so.
The grounds on which an arrest can be made under section 2 of the Emergency Powers Act, 1976 are set out in the section. It is scarcely necessary to point out that the fact that a person is arrested while handing out leaflets does not mean that he or she was arrested for handing out such leaflets.
As regards the reference to supervision, the position is that the Garda Síochána have, under various enactments, wide powers of arrest and, as the Deputy is aware, the powers of arrest conferred by section 2 of the Emergency Powers Act are no different from those conferred by section 30 of the 1939 Act, though, of course, the permitted period of custody is longer. The long established constraints on the Garda Síochána in exercising any power of arrest, whether under section 2 or section 30 or otherwise, are, firstly, that they are members of a disciplined force who are expected as a matter of course to adhere to the relevant legal provisions; secondly, that if any arrested person believes that he or she has been unlawfully arrested, that person is free to complain about it to the Garda authorities and the complaint will be investigated; and, thirdly, if an aggrieved person is not satisfied to have the matter dealt with by the Garda authorities, he or she can take an action in the courts for damages for wrongful arrest. In this connection, I would point out that neither section 2 of the 1976 Act nor section 30 of the 1939 Act on which it was modelled, permits arbitrary arrest but only arrest where the garda concerned suspects with reasonable cause—I emphasise the words "with reasonable cause"—that one of the situations envisaged in the section has come into existence. I reject and repudiate the Deputy's implication that the Garda Síochána use the Act in question as an instrument of harassment.