Irish Law Reform Commission Report on Search Warrants and Bench Warrants
At the moment in Ireland, 143 Acts and 159 ministerial Regulations allow the police and regulators (such as the Central Bank, commercial regulators and the Environmental Protection Agency) to apply to the District Court for warrants to search premises and seize material in connection with suspected theft, drugs offences or corporate offences.
Among the details of the recommendations:
- The proposed Search Warrants Act would apply to all indictable offences and to certain summary offences (notably those involving implementation of EU-derived law).
- The general validity period for search warrants should be 7 days, which may be extended if needed (three extensions only). Emergency search warrants issued by the High Court should last for 24 hours only. Exceptional 30 day time limits for search warrants in, for example, the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 and the Companies Act 2014 should be retained because they are needed to investigate complex corporate offences.
- Search warrants should, in general, be executed at reasonable times (usually, daylight hours), but may be executed at other times (so called “dawn raids”) if a case is made to the court that this is required.
- Material reasonably believed to be evidence of or relating to an offence, not necessarily the offence to which the search warrant refers, may be seized if found during a search.
- The admissibility of material over which privilege is claimed (for example, legal professional privilege) should be adjudicated by the High Court.
- A Code of Practice on Search Warrants should be published by the Minister for Justice and Equality, which would contain practical guidance on the procedures to be followed in search warrants.
- Failure to comply with the Search Warrants Act or the Code of Practice should not, of itself, affect the admissibility of evidence. The rules on the admissibility or inadmissibility of illegally and unconstitutionally obtained evidence will continue to be developed by the courts.