Garda whistleblower says GSOC should not have access to phone records

Reporters had phones accessed after complaints over the coverage of Katy French's death

John Wilson, Tom Clonan, phones, Newstalk, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Cabinet, government, garda, GSOC, Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, Leinster House, Oireachtas, GE16, General Election,

Garda whistleblower John Wilson outside Leinster House | Image:

A former garda and whistleblower says the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) should not have the power to trawl through the records of journalists.

The Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is reporting to the Cabinet this morning on the accessing of journalists phones by GSOC.

New legislation was introduced last year which gave GSOC the same powers as Garda Superintendents when it comes to accessing phones.

It is understood Minister Fitzgerald will appoint a judge or barrister to review this legislation.

Former garda whistleblower John Wilson said there needs to be a balance.

"The greater good should prevail here - and I think that in this case giving GSOC the power to got trawling through the records of journalists is totally unacceptable" he told the Pat Kenny Show here on Newstalk.

"There's a happy balance to be drawn here somewhere - we need basically more transparency in the dealings between journalists and An Garda Síochána" he added.

While security analyst Tom Clonan wonders what GSOC could get from phone records, given that some journalists are already close to the gardaí.

Earlier, government minister suggested a change to the powers of GSOC to access phones, so that it could only be done with the approval of a judge.

It comes after it was revealed that two reporters had their phones accessed by the Garda Ombudsman, over complaints about reports on the death of model Katy French.

However Minister Brendan Howlin says there may need to be more oversight.

"It strikes me that the situation in Britain is one that we could look at - whereby if there is a very strong view by GSOC that particular phones of journalists need to be accessed that that could only be done with the authority of a judge" he said.

"But we'll see what the minister for justice brings to Cabinet and what her views are" he added.

While Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday called for an overhaul of the legislation, saying it is valid in cases of national security but not when it comes to the monitoring of journalists phones.