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Data Protection Commission

Press Release
12 November 2007

Launch of Garda Síochána Data Protection Code of Practice

Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy and Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes today announced the launch of a data protection Code of Practice for An Garda Síochána.  Data protection is part of the human right to privacy so the new Code will fit naturally into An Garda Síochána's overall human rights strategy.  The Code is the product of work undertaken by An Garda Síochána in close cooperation with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.  It reflects the key principles of data protection best practice and, in particular, provides for regular audit of access to the Garda PULSE information system.

This is the first Code of Practice to be approved by the Data Protection Commissioner under the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003.  Acknowledging the work that went into its preparation, Commissioner Hawkes said:
"The launch of this code is clear evidence of the seriousness with which this issue has been treated within An Garda Síochána and the commitment of all concerned to produce a Code that will have real and lasting value."

The principal value of the Code is that it makes the principles of data protection real for all employees of An Garda Síochána and emphasises the heavy responsibility on them to treat personal data with respect.  These obligations include only collecting the personal information they need, guarding it carefully, not revealing it to others without proper authority and disposing of it safely when it is no longer needed.  The Code of Practice also emphasises the right of each individual to get a copy of the personal data that An Garda Síochána hold about them, subject to the supply of this data not being prejudicial to their investigations. 

At the launch, Commissioner Hawkes acknowledged the professionalism and excellent work of the Garda Vetting Unit in dealing with the many vetting and access requests under the Data Protection Acts that they receive every day. 

The Commissioner also pointed to the special emphasis placed in the Code for regular audit of access to the Garda information system, PULSE.  This will involve commanding officers in each Garda District examining a random selection of these usage records on a regular basis to ensure that the system was used appropriately.  An internal unit at Garda HQ will carry out a further audit on usage patterns.

The Commissioner also indicated:
"My Office will continue its regular programme of external audit of Garda data protection practices.  In setting out such audit arrangements, An Garda Síochána are giving a clear lead to others in the public sector that hold large quantities of personal data.  I will be looking for a similar level of commitment from other public sector agencies."

A directive with the new Code of Practice has been issued to more than 12,000 Gardaí.

For more information about data protection, please go to www.dataprotection.ie