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Irish police to be given powers to make people hand over passwords

·2-min read
Offenders could face fines of up to €30,000 or five years in prison (Getty)
Offenders could face fines of up to €30,000 or five years in prison (Getty)

Police in Ireland are to be handed new powers, including the right to issue a fine of up to €30,000 to anyone who refuses to surrender an electronic device’s password, according to new legislation in the Republic.

Justice minister Heather Humphreys announced the change as part of the Garda Síochána Bill, published on Monday.

It means a person who fails to give up their details will be committing a crime and could face up to five years in prison.

Due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions, more crime has migrated online – specifically to phones, computers and other devices – which are usually protected by personal logins. Gardaí (Irish police) sources reportedly told the Irish Times, this trend is expected to continue long after the pandemic, and that these new powers were considered “vital to strengthen searches”.

In another historic shift, officers in Ireland will for the first time be required to make a written record of a stop and search in a bid to collect data to analyse the measure’s use and effectiveness.

Other new processes include longer detention periods for the investigation of multiple offences, for a maximum of up to 48 hours, as well as a week’s detention for suspects in human trafficking offences – currently subject to a maximum of 24 hours.

Ms Humphreys said in a statement the Irish government’s aim is to create a system that is “both clear and straightforward” for Gardaí to use and “easy for people to understand what powers [officers] can use and what their rights are in those circumstances”.

She continued: “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.

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“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.”

In a tweet, Ms Humphreys added: “Our new Bill will modernise and update Garda powers, and it also contains provisions to ensure fundamental rights are protected.”

Officials also announced that, as part of the Bill, special measures would be introduced for suspects who are children and those who may have impaired capacity.

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