Irish Police Will Be Given Power To Demand Passwords From Suspects

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According to new legislation, Irish police will have the ability to demand that people give up their passwords to cell phones or mobile devices when authorities carry out a search warrant.

“The change is part of the Garda Síochána Bill published by Irish Justice Minister Heather Humphreys on Monday,” the BBC reported, adding that “Gardaí will also be required to make a written record of a stop and search.”

“This will enable data to be collected so the effectiveness and use of the powers can be assessed,” the BBC noted, while also explaining that “special measures” would be included for suspects who are children or persons with “impaired capacity.”

The controversial bill would also impose longer detention periods of up to 48 hours for the investigation of multiple simultaneous investigations, and up to one week for human trafficking offenses.

“The law in this area is currently very complex, spread across the common law, hundreds of pieces of legislation, constitutional and EU law,” said Humphreys. “Bringing it together will make the use of police powers by gardaí clear, transparent, and accessible.”

“The aim is to create a system that is both clear and straightforward for gardaí to use and easy for people to understand what powers gardaí can use and what their rights are in those circumstances,” the Justice Minister continued. “At the same time, where we are proposing to extend additional powers to gardaí, we are also strengthening safeguards. The bill will have a strong focus on the fundamental rights and procedural rights of the accused.”

“I believe this will maintain the crucial balance which is key to our criminal justice system while ensuring greater clarity and streamlining of Garda powers,” Humphreys concluded.

According to The Irish Times, this measure, “combined with a code of practice to be drawn up, will result in stop and search trends becoming clear over time.”

“This would include the gender and ethnicity of those being stopped,” The Irish Times added. “It will also become clear what parts of the country, and in cities in which post codes, stop and search actions happen most frequently and what age groups were stopped most often.”

The Irish Times also explained that anyone who refuses to “surrender a password for a mobile phone or other device to gardaí will be committing a crime,” and “could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €30,000” as a result.

Among the measures included in the bill are “a power for An Garda Síochána and other bodies to require a person to provide passwords for access to electronic devices when carrying out a search warrant,” “a new requirement to make a written record of a stop and search. This will facilitate the collection of data necessary to assess the effectiveness and use of the relevant powers by Garda management and oversight bodies,” and “special measures will be taken for suspects who are children and suspects who may have impaired capacity (whether because of an intellectual disability, mental illness, physical disability or intoxication).”

Heather Humphreys has served as Ireland’s Minister for Justice on a temporary basis since April 2021 and has served as Minister for Rural and Community Development and Minister for Social Protection since June 2020.

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