The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter, T.D., today announced that the Government has approved the drafting of the Criminal Justice (Search Powers) Bill as a priority.
The Bill will address the implications of the Supreme Court judgment in Ali Charaf Damache v The Director of Prosecutions, Ireland and the Attorney General delivered on 23 February 2012. The Court found section 29(1) of the Offences against the State Act 1939 to be unconstitutional.
Under the Minister's proposals, the impugned section will be replaced with a provision which will: increase the availability of judges empowered to issue search warrants under the 1939 Act; and permit a senior member of the Garda Síochána who is independent of the investigation concerned to issue a warrant in urgent circumstances which render an application to a District Court judge impracticable.
Making the announcement the Minister said "It is essential that the implications of the Supreme Court judgment be addressed as a priority; the Garda Síochána must be in a position to take action to safeguard the public if circumstances of urgency arise, for example relating to suspected offences involving firearms and explosives." He added that "the proposals will ensure that the operational requirements of the Garda Síochána are met and that all decisions authorising the search of any place including a dwelling are taken by persons who are independent of the investigation."
The General Scheme of the Bill is available here
28 March 2012
Note for Editors
1. Section 29(1) of the Offences against the State Act 1939 (as amended by section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1976) allowed a member not below the rank of superintendent to issue a warrant for any place where they were satisfied that evidence of, or relating to, the commission or intended commission of the following offences was to be found:
· an offence under the 1939 Act,
· an offence for the time being scheduled for the purposes of Part V of the 1939 Act,
· an offence under the Criminal Law Act 1976, or
2. The Garda Síochána has other statutory search warrant powers available in the interim in relation to serious offences against the State. For example, section 10 of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997 (as amended by section 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006) allows a member to apply to a District Court judge for a search warrant in relation to any arrestable offence i.e. an offence attracting a sentence of 5 years or more.