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Radical reforms Gardaí to be given new powers including access to device passwords during searches

A power for gardaí and other bodies to require a person to provide passwords for access to electronic devices when carrying out a search warrant will also be brought in.

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Gardaí will be given more time to question suspects in human trafficking investigations and other serious crimes to improve police effectiveness.

The introduction of a single power of arrest and making it a statutory right for an accused to have a lawyer present in interview are also among a raft of reforms.

The changes have been announced by the Justice Minister under the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill following approval by Government.

Heather Humphreys has said the Bill will modernise garda powers and improve police effectiveness while ensuring rights are protected.

A single power of arrest will be introduced to replace several hundreds of powers currently used.

It will now expand the powers to a greater number of offences while being subject to conditions to ensure an arrest is necessary.

Under the proposals a garda must be satisfied with the arrest for one of a list of reasons, including to prevent harm, or establish a person’s identity.

There are also plans to remove the requirement for Garda interviews to be taken down in writing in circumstances where it is being recorded by other means.

A key change will allow gardaí to question suspects in human trafficking and other complex investigations for longer.

This will be extended from the current 24 hours period of detention to a maximum of seven days.

A power for gardaí and other bodies to require a person to provide passwords for access to electronic devices when carrying out a search warrant will also be brought in.

The Justice Minister said the Bill will make the use of police powers by gardaí clear, transparent and accessible.

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“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.

“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,” Ms Humphreys said.

“ 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.

“This Bill, along with the implementation of the other recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, will improve and copper-fasten a policing practice which is focused, intelligence-based and underpinned by community confidence and support. It will enhance the bedrock of safeguards for good policing – trust, legitimacy and authority,” the Justice Minister added.

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