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New powers for gardaí on digital evidence
(Pic: RollingNews.ie)

07 Feb 2024 / legislation Print

New powers for gardaí on digital evidence

The Government has approved the drafting of new legislation aimed at allowing gardaí to quickly access criminal evidence in digital form.

The general scheme of the Criminal Justice (Protection, Preservation and Access to Data on Information Systems) Bill 2024 would allow law-enforcement authorities to request the preservation and production of data being held on IT systems controlled by internet service providers to investigate and tackle crime.

The general scheme will now go to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice for pre-legislative scrutiny.

International agreements

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that preservation-and-production orders were more suitable for obtaining digital evidence than traditional search-and-seizure measures, which were drafted to target physical spaces and objects.

She described the bill as “a significant step forward in tackling crime that operates in the online space”.

The Department of Justice says that the proposed legislation will give effect to a range of measures contained in international agreements that Ireland is party to.

These include the Council of Europe Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, the EU E-evidence Regulation, and the EU Terrorist Content Online Regulation.

Judicial authorisation

James Browne (Minister of State) said that the proposed measures would be subject to privacy safeguards – including judicial authorisation.

Among the key measures proposed are:

  • Expanding the State’s current domestic production/preservation order regime to cover a broader range of data categories, with “appropriate jurisdictional provisions” to deal with material held in the cloud,
  • Facilitating the EU-wide system envisioned by the E-evidence Regulation, whereby Irish authorities can request data controlled by internet service providers based in other EU states, and authorities in other EU states can do the same with respect to data controlled by Irish-based service providers,
  • Designating District Court judges as the Irish issuing authority for outgoing Irish orders,
  • Giving Coimisiún na Meán powers to sanction service providers for non-compliance with the EU Terrorist Content Online Regulation, which provides an EU wide mechanism for the rapid removal of online terrorist content.
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