Unconstitutional Search Warrant Leads to Quashed Conviction

A recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding certain search warrants has forced the government to introduce new legislation.

At issue was the constitutional protection afforded to the citizen's home under Article 40.5 of the Constitution. Article 40.5 states that: "The dwelling of every citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered save in accordance with the law.". The Supreme Court found that the legislation which allowed a Garda Superintendent to issue a search warrant under s.29 of the Offences Against the State Act 1939 was unconstitutional.

The Court stated that a high standard of independence was required of the person issuing a warrant to search a person's home. In the case of a member of An Garda Síochána issuing a warrant, this independence may not be guaranteed in some circumstances, for example where a person who issues the search warrant is conducting the same criminal investigation.

In this particular case, the Superintendent in charge of the investigation issued a warrant to search the home of a suspect. The Court held that at the Garda investigating the matter was not sufficiently independent to issue such a warrant. The proper person to issue the warrant was a person independent of the investigation authority, a district Court Judge for example.

The decision may have important implications for several cases currently before the courts where the same type of search warrant was issued and evidence was gathered during that search. Where criminal cases are fully concluded, it is likely that this decision will only be relevant where the convicted person challenged the search warrant during the original proceedings.

Change in procedure regarding return first country of entry

In a recent judgement of the ECJ it was decided that an asylum seeker may not be sent back to the first EU member state he landed in from outside the EU if he risks being subjected to inhuman treatment there. This means asylum seekers in Ireland who landed in another country first may not be sent back to the first country if they risk suffering inhumane treatment there. Under the current regime the state in which the asylum seeker first arrived was considered responsible for dealing with their asylum application. This was known as the "Dublin II" regulation. The ECJ ruled that Belgium should not have sent an person back to Greece where he had already been mistreated during the asylum process, as Greece was unable to guarantee that his human rights would not be infringed. In a subsequent hearing, the court was asked by the UK and Ireland to rule on two cases where asylum seekers had arrived from Greece and had objected to being sent back to Greece on the basis that the asylum regime in Greece was inadequate with regards to its human rights protections. In the Irish case a number of applicants, each of which originated fro different countries. They all initially arrived in Greece where they travelled on to Ireland where they claimed asylum. They resisted their return to Greece and claimed the procedures for asylum seekers there were inadequate. In the UK case, an asylum seeker had been arrested in Greece before making an asylum application and removed to Turkey, where he was held in in conditions which were such that his human rights were breached. He escaped from detention in Turkey and travelled to the United Kingdom where he claimed asylum. The Irish and English Courts asked the ECJ whether the State should verify that the receiving State (in this case Greece) will uphold the applicant's fundamental human rights. If the State finds that these rights will not be protected, the Courts asked should the State then assume responsibility of the asylum seeker's application? The judgement stated that States may no longer assume that fundamental rights will be upheld by the State of first entry.
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