Bill to provide legal basis for body cameras

New legislation being proposed by the Government will provide a legal basis for the use of body cameras by Garda Síochána, popularly known as Gardaí, the national police service of the Republic of Ireland. It will also enable the increased use of CCTV and automatic number-plate recognition (ANPR) technology.

The General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Digital Recording) Bill was published by the Minister for Justice, Ms. Heather Humphreys. She said it would provide “a robust statutory framework” for the use of recording devices in public places by GardaÍ, subject to appropriate standards, control, and oversight. Under the proposals, the Garda Commissioner must publish a statutory code of practice to set standards for the use of body-worn and handheld cameras. This code will be submitted to the Minister for Justice for approval.

Under the bill, a body camera must be worn on the uniform of a Garda, and there must be a visible indicator when the camera is operating. The bill includes changes to how CCTV footage is used, after a review by the Data Protection Commissioner raised some concerns about how current schemes are operated.

The changes include a requirement to review authorisations after a set time-period, and a requirement for joint data-control agreements to be in place. An independent examiner, to be established by the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill, will also be able to review how gardaí use the provisions relating to third-party data.

The Garda Commissioner will be able to authorise the installation of CCTV at fixed sites, and install and operate mobile CCTV in Garda vehicles. The proposals also allow Gardaí to seek court authorisation to access third-party CCTV for a set period. The force will also have access to ANPR data gathered by other bodies.