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Posts Tagged ‘Trevor Sargent’

Interference with Prosecutions

March 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I previously wrote on the topic of political interference with prosecutions, following the resignation of Trevor Sargent from his position as Minister for State. Within that post I raised the question of whether the Gardai involved had entertained those communications from Deputy Sargeant, which would be unlawful. The Prosecutions of Offences At does not, however, state that this would be an offence and certainly does not proscribe any penalties for such actions.

Today the Irish Times reports that a woman, suspected to be a serving member of An Garda Siochana, has been arrested in relation to the incident. It is not clear what exactly she has been arrested for, save that it is under s.4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984. Entertaining communications may be considered a disciplinary offence but as it is not a criminal offence, it would not warrant an arrest. It may be that this arrest relates to the leaking of the information, though this is speculative at this point. Nonetheless this is a very interesting development both in terms of the case itself but also for the fact that it is a Guard who has been arrested following an internal investigation. Incidents and scandals in the last decade have shown that while such arrests do occur, they are a rarity.

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Interference with Prosecutions

February 24, 2010 2 comments

The resignation of Mr Sargent from his role of Minister of State last night relates to a central element of the criminal justice system in Ireland – prosecutorial independence.

The Prosecution of Offences Act 1974, which created the office of the DPP, was introduced in part to reduce the demands made on the office of the AG who was also legal advisor to government, a role that had become more demanding since Ireland joined the EEC in 1972, but also due to an increasing need for independence from government in the prosecution of offences. While the AG is a political appointee who falls with the government, the DPP is defined as a civil servant who is ‘independent in the performance of his functions.’ Neither the government nor the AG can question him on the exercise of his functions. The DPP has stated in his reports that this independence is essential to safeguard the citizen against arbitrary, unjust or improperly motivated prosecutions. Enhancing this independence, under s.6, communication with the AG, or his agent, the DPP or his agent or a member of an Garda Síochána or a solicitor acting on behalf of the AG or the DPP in an official capacity, in relation to decisions to prosecute, the withdrawal of initiated proceedings, decisions not to charge or to withdraw charges, is made unlawful by the legislation. Indeed, the section specifically instructs the prosecutor not ‘to entertain’ any such unlawful communication. Excluded from this are defendants, complaints, or communications from those acting as a medical or legal advisor, social worked or family member. But a politician cannot engage in any discussions with the DPP or any of the above named persons about the prosecution in a case which affects a constituent (either as defendant or victim). Read more…