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To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the action he will take to deal with the systemic leaking of information by An Garda Síochána to the mainstream media, which is a criminal offence; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

-Mick Wallace

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 5th November, 2013.

REPLY

I understand from the Garda Commissioner that it is the policy of An Garda Síochána that overall responsibility for releasing Garda information to the media rests with the Garda Press and Public Relations Office.  Members of An Garda Síochána are prohibited, except in specified circumstances, without the authority of the Commissioner from communicating either directly or indirectly with the media or furnishing to the media any information in connection with the investigation of crime or other official matters.

Any member of the Garda Síochána who leaks information to the media is not only contravening clear Garda policy, but is also, as the question notes, contravening the law.  It is an offence under the Official Secrets Act 1963 for a member of the Garda Síochána, as for any public official, to disclose official information without lawful authority.  It is also, quite separately, a distinct offence under section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 for a member of the Garda Síochána to make an unauthorised disclose to the media of information obtained in the course of duty if the member knows that such disclosure is likely to have a harmful effect.  The section  sets out a list of instances of harmful effect covered by this offence, which includes for example disclosures which result in the publication of personal information constituting an unwarranted and serious infringement of a person's right to privacy.

Any member of the public who believes that he or she has been the subject of unauthorised disclosure of information by a member of the Garda Síochána may make a complaint to the independent Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, which has extensive powers of investigation.

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