A High Court judge has directed gardaí to provide a man with mobile phone voice and video recordings secretly made by his wife of him in their home.
The man brought High Court proceedings seeking discovery of the recordings, which he believes his wife may seek to use in separate family law proceedings with potential to impact on his custody of, and unsupervised access to, their children.
The woman separately sought an order that recordings of interactions between the man and the children be provided to a named person for an assessment of those.
Gardaí had opposed providing the recordings at this stage, arguing that might impede their ongoing criminal investigation in respect of the man’s alleged assault of the couple's children and coercive control of the woman.
Because a decision has yet to be made whether to prosecute the man, they also argued discovery of the material is not in the public interest.
Mr Justice Max Barrett earlier this month directed gardaí to provide the recordings to the court for private examination before deciding the discovery issue.
Having viewed and listened to the material, contained on a USB stick, he said in a follow-up judgment this week he was satisfied it was necessary and relevant to the proceedings.
He ruled, having balanced the public interest in the proper administration of justice in a case concerning the safety and welfare of children with the public interest in maintaining privilege associated with Garda investigations of an alleged criminal offence, the material should be provided to the man and woman for these proceedings.
He said the parties may make submissions concerning his proposal to make additional orders permitting reliance on the material in separate guardianship and access proceedings and the man’s appeal against the barring order.
He will also hear submissions concerning whether the material should be provided to a named person for assessment, as the woman sought.
He said he will hear from gardaí as to the pace of the discovery, and it will not immediately follow his judgment.
Given the content of the recordings, they should not be played to the children, he directed.
The woman went to a garda station in December 2020 where she alleged the man was physically and emotionally abusive of her and the children. She made a statement and provided a USB device on which recordings had been downloaded.
On January 23rd last, gardai seized, under section 7 of the Criminal Justice Act, two mobile phones from the woman for forensic examination.
Prior to that, in November 2019, an audio recording of the man was played to the District Court, initially during an ex parte (one side only represented) application by the woman for an interim barring order and again a week later during a contested hearing for a barring order.
The woman claimed the recording corroborated her experience of the man as being threatening to her and their children. The man alleges the woman has contrived a version of events which is untrue and/or inaccurate and, in the High Court case, alleges the recording breaches his rights, including to privacy.