This has been a pet subject at Public Inquiry – but one that has received little media attention. The Irish Times reports:
A former garda said he was told by another officer that a room in Letterkenny Garda station was set up to secretly record conversations and visitors before several people were arrested during the investigation into the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron in 1996.
Martin Leonard said he was told afterwards that Sgt Joseph Costello had been brought down from Garda HQ in Dublin to bug rooms in the station.
“It was discussed afterwards. Tina Fowley was the one I heard on about it, that she had prepared that particular room,” Mr Leonard said.
“That’s the only one I heard on about it. That somebody had asked her to get an armchair for it, something about an armchair,” Mr Leonard added.
Mr Leonard said that Gda Fowley told him “that he [ Sgt Costello] was brought down and that the room was set up to listen to visitors.”
The former garda said he thought secret taping would be inappropriate, but it would not be wrong, because “it wasn’t a privileged conversation between a solicitor and a client.”
Mr Leonard said there was no question of gardaí bugging conversations between solicitors and clients.
This adds further weight to Sgt White’s allegations.What Leonard does not do is say that solicitor-client conversations were recorded – something that White has alleged. But looking at the tribunal transcriptions reveals some surprising details. Garda Leonard appeared to see nothing wrong with bugging conversations, or even more strange activities:
Chairman:Was it wrong to be doing that in your view?
Leonard: I don’t think so, you know
Leonard: I don’t think so.
Leonard: Not if you want to establish the truth about something, I don’t think so.
Leonard: I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with it fundamentally. It wasn’t a privileged conversation, you know, between a solicitor and a client. I mean, for example, would you think it’s an awful thing supposing that you had somebody in a cell, right, and you believe in your heart and soul that they committed murder, would you think it an awful thing for a guard to go in and say — as another prisoner, be brought in and threw into the cell that night, throw drink on him, on the guard let’s say and pretended he was drunk, adn then he might get some information from the person you believed committed murder, I wouldn’t see anything wrong with that at all.
Counsel (McDermott): That has led to terrible miscarriages of justice throughout the common law world.
Leonard: No, no, no, wait.