Government to appoint former Chief Justice to review laws on phone surveillance

John Murray will oversee the three-month review

Government to appoint former Chief Justice to review laws on phone surveillance

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald outside Leinster House this evening Image: RollingNews.ie

The Government has asked a former Chief Justice to oversee a review of the laws on phone surveillance.

John Murray will oversee the three-month review, which will include all agencies with the power to put phones under surveillance.

The Minister for Justice says she does not have any authority over GSOC's decisions to monitor the phones of individual journalists.

But she says any review of the surveillance laws has to go beyond the Garda Ombudsman

“Any bodies who have this power, to access records, phone logs ... it will have to examine those. Not simply GSOC, obviously, it has to look at the various bodies who have the power under the legislation to access phone logs,” she said.

She said she has been assured by GSOC that any of its monitoring of journalists' phones is completely legal.

The minister says she had no knowledge of GSOC's activities before journalists themselves reported them

“I do not have access to the independent data that is there under an independent body.

“We spend a lot of time in politics for independent bodies to be examining issues – GSOC is independent so I do not have, in fact I don’t have the details in relation to the cases that have been reported, because that’s the business of GSOC,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald added that she has not given permission for the phone calls of journalists to be secretly recorded by Gardaí. Only the minister herself can allow phone calls themselves to be recorded - and she says she's never allowed that in the case of journalists:

“I certainly have not signed any warrant in relation to the investigation of journalists,” she said.Earlier today there were calls for curbs on the power of GSOC to trawl phone records of journalists.

Earlier today there were calls for checks on the power of GSOC to trawl phone records of journalists.The issue arose after two journalists revealed their phones had been accessed by the Ombudsman over complaints relating to reporting of the death of model Katy French.

The issue arose after two journalists revealed their phones had been accessed by the Ombudsman over complaints relating to reporting of the death of model Katy French.