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Cabinet backs draft bill on garda use of FRT

14 Dec 2023 / legislation Print

Cabinet backs draft bill on garda use of FRT

The Government has approved the publication of a draft bill that would allow An Garda Síochána to use facial-recognition technology (FRT) in specified circumstances.

After the riots in Dublin last month, the offences of riot and violent disorder have now been included in the scope for the use of FRT.

The Oireachtas Justice Committee will now carry out pre-legislative scrutiny of the Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) (Amendment) Bill 2023.

The draft bill would amend the Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Act 2023 in order to allow gardaí to use biometric identification. Under the Data Protection Act 2018, it is not possible for An Garda Síochána to process such data without a clear statutory basis.

FRT ‘will save time’

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is to ask the committee to look at including an additional list of serious offences for possible inclusion in the schedule of offences covered by the bill.

The Department of Justice says that FRT will save “thousands of garda hours” by allowing the use of biometric identification to retrospectively search CCTV.

“We are already seeing gardaí having to trawl through thousands of hours of CCTV – 12,000 hours in the case of the Dublin riots,” said the minister.

“Facial-recognition technology will dramatically save time, speed up investigations, and free up garda resources for the high-visibility policing we all want to see,” she added.


The draft bill will provide for retrospective searching of images that are legally in the possession of An Garda Síochána, through the use of biometric identification in the following circumstances:

  • Where a serious offence is suspected, as listed in the schedule of the bill’s general scheme,
  • The use of biometric identification must be “necessary and proportionate” in that specific case, and
  • Each particular use of biometric identification is authorised in writing in advance by a chief superintendent, and a record of that authorisation is maintained.

Groups such as the Irish Council for Civil Liberties have previously expressed concerns about the use of FRT by gardaí – including the potential for bias against certain groups.

The Department of Justice said that the bill contained provisions that provided safeguards and oversight of garda powers.

A statutory code of practice for the use of FRT will have to be approved by the Oireachtas, while the bill also contains provision for a designated judge of the High Court to report to the Taoiseach annually on the operation of the system.

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