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Gardaí (the Irish police) are required to combine technical and legal proficiency in the prevention and detection of crime. Expected to intervene in every kind of emergency, gardaí investigate a diverse array of offences and to do so combine skills in crowd control, crime scene management, intelligence-gathering and the collection and analysis of forensic evidence. They intervene with mentally ill persons and deal with children, vulnerable complainants, suspects and witnesses. In order to fulfil their various functions the gardaí are vested with an extraordinary array of powers, powers which facilitate surveillance, the taking of forensic samples, photographs and fingerprints, stopping, searching and arresting individuals, as well as searching homes and vehicles. Suspects are detained and questioned, children are taken into emergency care, mentally ill persons are taken into custody. Each situation is not only complicated on a human level, but on a legal level also, as the powers exercised intersect with constitutional and legal rights to liberty, privacy, bodily integrity, freedom of association and expression.
In England and Wales the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 is accompanied by extensive PACE Codes of Conduct. There the core framework of police powers and safeguards around stop and search, arrest, detention, investigation, identification and interviewing detainees is clearly laid out. In Ireland an unwieldy array of legislation and case-law must be sifted through to decipher the applicable principles. The pace of legislative change in Irish criminal justice, combined with the practice of amending Acts piecemeal rather than by consolidation, makes identification of the extent and scope of the powers of the Gardaí a challenge which is grappled with by Gardaí and practitioners alike.
In this work the law is distilled to determine the origin of key powers and the pre-requisites and practical aspects of their lawful exercise. The approaches of the courts and police forces of other common-law jurisdictions to particular policing questions have been considered. Insofar as is possible, best practice guidance has been incorporated, grounded in human rights principles and international standards.