Last December the Government agreed to publish its draft law on facial recognition technology (FRT), which will be used for offences including violent disorder. The Minister for Justice said the aim of the Bill is to help gardaí “trawl” through thousands of hours of CCTV when investigating serious crimes.

In light of the riots in Dublin City Centre on the 23rd November last year, Minister McEntee secured Cabinet approval for the offences of riot and violent disorder to be now been included in the proposed scope of FRT. The maximum penalty for each of these offences is an unlimited fine, a prison sentence of up to 10 years, or both.

In addition to asking the Oireachtas Justice Committee to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny, Minister McEntee also asked the Committee to consider an additional list of serious offences for possible inclusion in the schedule of offences in the Bill.

This Act will allow An Garda Síochána rollout bodycams later this Spring, starting in Dublin city centre.

It will also provide for a robust and modern statutory framework for the use by An Garda Síochána of recording devices and the processing of video and audio data to support their functions in investigating, detecting, preventing and prosecuting criminal offences, safeguarding against and preventing threats to public safety and public order, and in matters relating to the security of the State.

Patrick Costello, TD, of the Green Party said that there is a need for limitations, safeguards and proper scrutiny when it comes to facial  technology, “When the tech was last pushed by Fine Gael we looked for limitations, safeguards and proper scrutiny. The need for limits and safeguards hasn’t changed,” he said.

“We now need to ensure these safeguards are in the legislation itself. I look forward to examining this legislation at the Justice Committee.”

Advocacy groups such as the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) have expressed concerns around use of the technology for law enforcement and in public spaces.

There are many privacy fears stemming from facial recognition technology, principal concerns being;

  1. Improper data storage
  2. Misuse of data
  3. Infringement on individual privacy
  4. Infringement on freedom of speech and association
  5. Lack of transparency
  6. It might become normalised
  7. New advances could make it accessible to everyone

The draft Bill is to provide for the “retrospective” searching of images which are legally in the possession of gardaí, through the “safe and ethical use” of biometric identification.

This will only take place where a serious offence is suspected; where the use of biometric identification is necessary and proportionate; and where the use of biometric identification is authorised in writing in advance by a chief superintendent and a record is kept.

The department said that the Bill also provides “safeguards and oversight” of the new powers granted to gardaí and noted that the new legislation would be drafted “fully in line” with EU law.


NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website, or email