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ATU staff told not to help Gardaí without prior permission


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

ATU staff told not to help Gardaí without prior permission ATU staff told not to help Gardaí without prior permission

Atlantic Technological University (ATU) has told its staff not to co-operate with Garda inquiries or requests for information – without first getting permission from its data protection office.

In an email issued by the university, which includes the former GMIT, all staff were warned last week that, “any request for information from the Gardaí relating to staff, students or other ATU stakeholders MUST be directed immediately to the Information Compliance Office”.

It includes Gardaí gathering evidence and information while investigating crime.

Lecturers who contacted the Galway City Tribune described the policy as “madness” and claimed it would potentially slow down Garda investigations, but ATU insisted the policy was in line with guidance issued by the Law Society of Ireland.

Staff were told this new policy includes Garda requests to access – including view or copy – footage from CCTV cameras on ATU property.

“It also includes a scenario where a Garda presents in person,” ATU staff were told.

“Such requests must not be administered locally until this office is informed,” said Edel Hegarty, Information Compliance Manager and Data Protection Officer at ATU.

Ms Hegarty said an exception may be made if there was a “welfare concern”, or “in the unlikely event of not being able to make contact” with the university’s Information Compliance Office.

She said it was “essential such requests are handled according to data protection legislation”, and that they “have a legal basis” and are “necessary and proportionate”.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, ATU clarified that its Information Compliance Office was responsible for providing guidance to the university regarding Data Protection, Freedom of Information, and records management.

The new policy about requests from competent authorities, including Gardaí, applied to “all requests for personal data” of students, staff, and other stakeholders, which includes external examiners and Governing Body members.

“This policy requires staff members to consult the Information Compliance Office immediately on receipt of a request from the Gardaí so that compliance by ATU with data protection legislation can be ensured when disclosing the data. This includes requests for CCTV. If data protection requirements are met, the requested information is provided to the Gardaí,” a spokesperson for ATU said.

ATU said its Information Compliance Office will process Garda requests for information, to ensure, “the request is bona fide”; to ensure “an appropriate legal basis exists for the disclosure of the data”; and to ensure “the request is necessary and proportionate”.

If staff are satisfied there is “an immediate welfare concern”, ATU said its policy allows them to give the information to Gardaí immediately, and then notify the Information Compliance Office “as soon as possible”. This includes cases of “emergency or threat to life or health of an individual”.

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