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New York Ruling Raises Questions About Garda Surveilance

category dublin | crime and justice | news report author Monday February 26, 2007 13:55author by Dave Donnellanauthor email daviddonnellan at eircom dot net Report this post to the editors

Right to Peaceful Protest is Being Infringed by Gardai?

An important principle which emerged in the 1985 Handshu Agreement in New York was that Police have no right to investigate purely political activity. The ruling handed down last week by Judge Charles Haight of the New York Supreme Court forbids police from routine video-taping of people at public gatherings as it contavenes the spirit of the Hanshu Agreement. People involved in this country in purely peaceful, political protests will know that such Garda surveillance has become routine even though no criminal activity is present.
Garda Surveillance At Recent Anti-War Demo in Shannon: Is it illegal?
Garda Surveillance At Recent Anti-War Demo in Shannon: Is it illegal?

In the Hanshu Agreement there is a clear distinction between political activity, which the police have no right to investigate and criminal activity which it is their duty to investigate. Where there is a mix a warrant must be sought to justify the investigation. The ruling which forbids routine police video taping is an important statement of a principle which may also have ramifications in ireland. The right and indeed sometimes the duty to protest cannot be taken for granted. The Gardai may be overstepping the mark in the level of surveillance through video taping and still photography at purely political demonstrations.

Related Link: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/02/19/1545225
author by Maura Harrington - S2S; Davitt Leaguepublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 15:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for informative post - for the record, Mr. Gorgeous posted is one of the Mayo Police Commissioner's men in Mayo - at Ballinaboy.

author by TapeHeadpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 16:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Is it possible to ask to see copies of footage from Ballinaboy, Shannon etc under Freedom of Information or Data Protection acts?

Has anyone ever explored this?

Did anything ever come of the SP's complaint to the cops about video-taping back in October?

greg.jpg

author by Damienpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 16:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I can't see the problem... from the protestors point of view I would have thought the camera would be a pretty good way to ensure that the Guards behave themselves - I'd be much more worried if there was no camera rolling.

I can't see why either group should be worried about a record of the day being kept, after all a video would make for much more evenly balanced evidence than what is written in a Gardas notebook.

author by TapeHeadpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 16:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That would be true if there was a way for protesters and other interested parties to see the footage the cops are collecting.

author by Damienpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 17:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I can't see the advantage to the protestors of having access to these tapes unless they are being used as evidence, and in such a case the tape would enter the public domain, so its a non issue.

The protestors have their own tapes, why not keep these as their own record without relying on the Garda tapes?

author by Cesarpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 17:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think the issue (Garda) Damien is why the Garda are filming at all at purely political demonstrations. On what basis are they pointing cameras at members of the public who happen to be at a political gathering. The remit of the Garda is to investigate criminal activity and yet there is no criminal activity involved here so why the cameras. As a protester it is quite intimidating to have a member of the security forces point such a recording device into your face. What is going to be done with that record? How is it going to be used? It is unquestionably a form of harassment.

author by R. Isiblepublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 17:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The protestors have their own tapes, why not keep these as their own record without relying on the Garda tapes?

Speaking as a taxpayer I'd like to see what's being recorded and also to know whether or not this is a complete waste of resources. I'd also like to know exactly /why/ the police are doing this and what they intend to do with the footage, what due diligence is practiced in it's storage and access and how it is archived and restricted.

The main reason that people are concerned about this monitoring is that there is a long record of police forces being used to gather information for political and not crime-prevention purposes. Now, I know that the Gardai are as fine a bunch of lads as ever strapped on a baton and they'd never think of doing anything illegal and that there are no rotten apples in the force, but it's important to reassure the public by providing clear details as to who initiated this monitoring, who has access to the tapes etc. And be aware that if this doesn't happen then the whining, malingering discontents will make all sorts of accusations about it instead of attending to their proper role of serving me another Pâté de Viande Hachée.

The Handschu Agreement has nothing to do with Irish law and is a consent decree obtained in 1985 theoretically preventing the NYPD (who unlike the Gardai were corrupt and engaged in political activities including spying, initiating terrorist activities using agents provocateur, and assasination among others) from gathering information which could lead to a repeat of these activities. The safeguard (which originated from a class action lawsuit started in 1971 and mainly concerning the Black Panthers) was supposed to be a civilian oversight board. Surprisingly this board turned out to be completely fucking useless.

It's also now illegal to go on demonstrations in NY with your face covered and people taking part in e.g. theatre protest have been arrested for having powdered faces. This is understandable though because there is a War On Terror.

Anyway, there's no way that Handschu can be "violated" in Ireland because it's not in effect here.

Related Link: http://www.policetalk.com/handshu.html
author by Damienpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 18:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Its a little hard to understand your claim that "there is no criminal activity involved" ..... considering there have been many allegations of assault. Surely assault would constitue criminal activity, whether the assault is committed by a Garda or otherwise.

The camera never lies - I think recording everything is a great way to police the police and the crowd.

author by Casement Fanpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 18:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Damien, whats wrong with the special branch sitting outside someones house if they are involved in political activity seen as a subversive threat by the hillbillies in the branch? Whats wrong with the cops listening in on telephone calls of people involved in social movements. Whats wrong with preventative detention on the word of the secret police, whats wrong with the secret cops having a word with your boss. The point here is that the cops being allowed surveil the citizenry without any reasonable cause is purely intimidatory. It is anathematic to the principle of free speech and free association. This is what Hanshu declared. The police having the power to determine willy nilly who to spy on and who brings us very close to discovering characteristics of a police state. you didnt see the police video taping fans entering Croke Park on Saturday so why are they video taping demonstrators down the road?

They do it to gather intelligence on activists. In the 70s the cops in the south were given carte blanche by the cowards in Leinster house to do whatever they saw fit in fighting politically motivated violence and crime. This has never been reversed and the cops still have access to juriless courts and a pliant media. So seeing the cops push the boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour in a democracy is not surprising.

author by Peaceful Protester - NApublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 19:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was trying to find the RSF Anti-god save the quen, mini-protest on saturday 24th feb. I was not sure where it was to start from. I noticed a woman holing a sign for RSF and i asked her where the protest was to begin from. I wanted to film the protest, not take part in it. About 2 minutes after i walked away fom the woman, 2 undercover guards approached me and asked me what was i doing? Why was i talking to that woman, they also took my name and address.
My question: Do they have a right to do that? Do i have a right to remain silent in ireland?

Please help me if you can,
Thanks.

author by xpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 19:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

(well, not yet anyway) so this article is utterly pointless - it relates to another law in another jurisdiction. Just because something is a law in the US doesnt mean in any way that it should be a law here. You might as easily just say that because an Egyptian blogger was jailed, the same should happen here; or because Holland legalised drugs we should too. What relevance does an American judge's decree have in the Republic of Ireland? None. Repeat: none. As if they were some sort of shining beacons to look up to at any rate... look at the guy who weeped at Anna Nicole Smith's paternity hearing, makes the whole profession out as a joke.

author by Seaicilín Fpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 19:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Unfortunately, you are legally compelled to give your name and address if asked by a member of An Garda Síochána who has produced identification, if he/she is in plain clothes (they can arrest if you don't), and you should ask them why they are asking you for this - this question will usually be met with either a fierce glare or a more sinister tactic a smiling face with no response, I have received both. You do not have to give them your date of birth or any other information whatsoever.

Best of luck with your reporting and I hope any report you produce is a more fair and balanced version than the usual tripe that appears in the newspapers. Perhaps, you could start by leaving out the words 'RSF mini-protest'!

Maybe you should do a report on Garda surveillance instead, this should be easy for you, if like me you become a victim of their surveillance.

author by Damienpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 20:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

R. Isible,

You problem with this filming seems to be that there is a lack of transparency with how the film is used. If you were given the access as you sugest would you then be happy for the filming to continue? Or is the real issue that you disagree with filming, irrespective of access that the public have to it?

Regarding the abuse of the tapes, the evidence in a notebook can be abused much more easily than a tape so would it not be safer for everyone if video evidence was used instead of the recollection of a Garda?

"cops being allowed surveil the citizenry without any reasonable cause is purely intimidatory"

I think the history of violence at these protests is reasonable cause - there have been many reports of assaults, and some have allegedly been committed by Guards, a very serious problem. If the filming prevents this it is clearly a crime prevention technique.

author by Breathepublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 23:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just another point.

You can also ask the Guard the following question: 'Under what powers are you acting?'

This question is mainly asked if they're b'out 2 arrest u.

author by Mike Novackpublication date Mon Feb 26, 2007 23:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I assure you, a NY state supreme court justice making a ruling has NO idea that there would be people so silly as to imagine that this ruling was intended to apply ANYWHERE except within the state of New York.

What your gardai can or cannot do will depend upon the constitution and laws YOU as free people decide to have for yourselsves. What the people of New York have is irrelevant (except perhaps as ideas, guidance, etc. for ones you [propse to adopt for yourselves).

PS -- Be aware that this works in both directions. YOU get no say as to what is or is not legal here.

author by Spunky Spasmpublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 00:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well, given the fact that members of the BAR. Worldwide , are members of the british accreditation registry, it would be of relevence that the ruling would have bareing everywhere , including the Repubic of west britian, I mean , Ireland.

author by Casement Fanpublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 01:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Damien, Im glad you're filming and gathering intelligence on us for our own good. But its quite clear to anyone who has ever been to a demo taped by cops that they are most interested in getting the faces of demonstrators on record. The cameras dont come out when trouble arrives they start shooting when the demonstrators arrive.

This has nothing to do with protecting the cops or the public. It has to do with gathering intel on campaigns and organising and intimidating people. Branch clowns used to sit outside anti apartheid meetings for the very same purpose, to freak people out and intimidate them. I remember once being stopped by the Branch coming out of a lecture by a Brazilian economist and member of the Brazilian workers party. you want to give these bozos carte blanche to videotape people whenever and wherever they want. They can then archive this stuff however they wish and use it however they wish, perhaps sharing it with their pals in the UK, NI, USA etc. I mean wouldnt it be better if i gave the cops my DNA and fingerprints as a matter of course so they could see I wasn't committing any crimes?

author by T. Foylepublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 03:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If you havent done anything wrong , you've nothing to worry about. If your breaking into Private property as an example to protest, well, guess what? you've broken a law.

If a Garda has a camera I'd daresay thats evidence thats hard to twist into something else. I for one arent intimidated by Garda with Cameras, they work both ways boyo, the garda can hardly go around Bashing when there's Cameras rolling, now can they?

Protestors film, that could be construed as intimidating whom they protest against, I hear no complaints about that. It's patently absurd to compare the Yanks with here, since when do their laws count in our country?

author by Cesarpublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 08:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The article doesn't claim anywhere that the New York ruling is legally binding in this country. What it does say is that it raises questions about Irish practice. The connection is clear looking at the picture above. The Garda do video tape political demonstrations here so how is a ruling about police video taping political demonstrations in another jurisdiction not relevant? Why is not legitimate to draw comparisons between the two distinct jurisdictions? Would some people prefer we didn't discuss this? In particular the ruling provides an interesting framework through which to look at political policing, namely, criminal activity is the area for police investigation not political activity and where there's a crossover between both police need to show cause. The question that is highlighted and hasn't been answered yet is on what basis are the Garda video taping purely political demonstrations?

author by R. Isiblepublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 12:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The article doesn't claim anywhere that the New York ruling is legally binding in this country.

Very true. Re-reading the article it's clear that the author is offering the Handschu Agreement as an illustrative example of the problems of the police being allowed to gather evidence in advance of any crime being committed.

As regards the "if you're innocent then why would you object to the police knowing everything about you?", Handschu, the Stasi, OGPU and other examples of politicised policing spring quickly to mind.

author by GardaCampublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 16:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Gardai have numerous cameras trained on them by protesters waiting for one of the gardai to lash out.

I dont see the problem with the gardai doing the same so if a protester does commit an offence it will be caught on camera.

author by camera clubpublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 16:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tis funny how the cops with the cameras are getting into the habit of wearing hoods, and how often they shield their own faces when they see a camera pointed at them.

mary_poppins.jpg

fashion_police.jpg

ireland.jpg

garda_1.jpg

author by Hoodspublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 16:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I presume they are wearing hoods because they are cold!!

Also some have been seen wearing scarfs that cover their necks, these are worn by motorcycle gardai to stop the wind going down their necks. All can be worn on duty as they are official uniform.

I dont know why i come on here, the attitudes of some people here are amazing. Referring to the "special branch", by this i think they mean detectives who deal only with crime.

author by Just in case - Nonepublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 17:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The gardai use their cameras at their own discresion Obviously, Rewind and delete are easy buttons even for a guard...They should not be filming us and you can be sure they are not filming themselves committing assaults or intimidation. When I recently watched some officers assaulting a man in rossport their lovley friendly hooded cameramen were nowhere near except one, who funnily enough wasn't filming at that point.Its an intrusion of privacy.

author by localpublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 17:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

None of the other cops wear hoods.

The police have taken film and cameras from protesters.

None of the Garda footage has been seen by anyone other than the cops and the govt (and Shell too I suppose- it'd be pure amazing if they weren't "assisting" the cops).

The police have no cause to film, since they clearly have no intention of prosecuting anyone.

author by Casement Fanpublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 21:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

hoods, by Special branch I mean the states political cops, not the special detective unit or the various other detective units associated with investigating crime.

author by Bag of ropey onions with legs sticking out of thempublication date Tue Feb 27, 2007 22:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have met several of these "camcop" and the are neither special nor special branch. One othe cops pictures above are stationed at Belmullet as a regular Garda.

They take there orders from the Sergeant in Charge who points people out who may be wearing hoods or other coverings. The camera cop then goes and gets a shot his face. Then if something kicks off they have a means to identify some who might be hooded will they did an illegal act. This footage will be used against them.

This is their role. Next time you are at a demo watch what they are doing. Like the bike cops they would have done a special course maybe in Templemore and they are giving the jackets because there roe based outdoors. IF the were on motorbikes they would be given leathers. This is the logic.

No in saying that, this doesn’t mean the special branch don't watch this footage or some other sort of special unit. Many people seem to give too much credence to the special branch. Like plain clothes guard is a member of special branch. This isn’t true. There may be a few members in each division but most are based in offices in Dublin. Local Senior defectives then report intelligence to the branch.

What I find interesting was this chap Conor O Reilly and what was his role in Mayo. Some have said he was a tactical adviser but he was able to give a lot of orders on the ground. His tactics were very similar to those employed by the German police at major anti nuclear train blockades will less of the charisma and sense of humor.
Supt Gannon should have got the blame for batoning people and the rest on November 10th but O Reilly was shipped out. Office politics I am sure.

author by Policepublication date Wed Feb 28, 2007 00:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Crime Special members would be referred to the special branch. They monitor subversives in each division. They have nothin and want nothing to do with long haired protestes in mayo.

Local detectives in Mayo are not special branch. They investiagate all sorts of crime. theft/burglary/robbery/rape/fraud/assault etc etc.

author by Seaicilín Fpublication date Thu Mar 01, 2007 01:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Indeed, An Garda Síochána would never film themselves committing assaults on protestors. I have never heard of a case where a Garda filmed another Garda beating the shite out of a protestor and producing this evidence in court against his/her colleague. These cameras are used as an indirect weapon against the protestors. This overt surveillance is used to control and to intimidate and harass protestors as well as to collate intelligence on political protestors - it is all for the Garda Síochána’s and their employer's benefit, in their eyes the political protestor has no rights.

We are living in a surveillance frenzied society; we are constantly under surveillance as we stroll along the streets of Dublin city. We can no longer meet in a public park in private, or walk along the streets, buy our groceries without our purchases and habits been recorded and our every movement monitored by some hidden electronic device. Everyone is under surveillance nowadays (covertly or overtly), just going about their daily business (not just at political protests); and information is being collated on people and they are not even aware of it, be it for retail, banking marketing purposes or for security purposes. The very fact that some people have their name on the voting register means they get targeted and harassed with unwanted junk mail sent to their homes; and are visited by nuisance callers (i.e. the deluded wannabe politician who thinks they represent you). Our RIGHT TO PRIVACY is being VIOLATED every day and most people are not even aware of it.

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