CONCERN: State solicitor backs law to stop leak of legal information
By Claire Murphy
Tuesday July 07 2009
There is growing concern that a small minority of solicitors are passing on crucial legal information to gang circles.
A state solicitor has said that parts of the Criminal Justice Act were introduced as a means of deterring any solicitor from acting as "intelligence officers" for gangs.
"One of the provisions will allow a judge to hear, in camera, applications in the absence of a prisoner and the prisoner's legal team on reasons why that person should be further detained in the course of an investigation," said Michael Murray, the state solicitor for Limerick city.
"This unusual piece of legislation was promoted by concern within certain official circles that a tiny minority of solicitors are harvesting information on operational matters and passing them on to the criminal fraternity and effectively acting as criminal intelligence officers for criminal gangs," Mr Murray said.
However, it was emphasised that there was no particular reference to solicitors in any specific city or town.
Mr Murray, a brother of the Chief Justice John Murray, has come out strongly in support of the Criminal Justice (Amended) Act. This piece of legislation provides for the creation of new "scheduled offences" linked to gang activity which will be tried in the Special Criminal Court.
The legislation, which is currently going through the Oireachtas, will give the authorities much broader powers to tackle gangland crime.
Mr Murray also said he was aware of jury intimidation going on, which is an affront to the legal system.
"They started intimidating witnesses, they made life uncomfortable for jurors and the contract they had with the State, they tore up," he said. "Now the contract is being rewritten by the State on its terms and, I think, rightly so."
A Garda source said that there was "merit" in Mr Murray's claims regarding criminal elements. He said that when gardai are interviewing suspects under arrest, certain matters have been repeated to them which they feel could only have come from legal people dealing with criminals.
Defence barrister Brian McInerney said Mr Murray should act if he had evidence that any solicitor had engaged in criminal activity or improper professional conduct.
"One would expect him to bring this evidence before the appropriate authority to be acted upon," he said.
"By this, I mean the State prosecution authorities in the case of alleged criminal activity and if it is an alleged improper professional activity it should be brought before the appropriate professional body."
- Claire Murphy