WHAT ARE MY LEGAL RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS IF STOPPED BY AN AUTHORISED OFFICER?
Section 72 of the Wildlife Act 1976 Act was amended by Section 65 of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000. This deals with the powers of the Garda Siochana and Authorised Officers (Wildlife Rangers) of the Minister under the Wildlife Acts and also under CITES. For the purposes of the Wildlife Acts and the CITES Regulations, the Minister can appoint Authorised Officers to carry out specific functions. The Minister may limit the functions of an Authorised Officer. An appointed person will remain an Authorised Officer until such time as the appointment is terminated or he/she resigns. The Minister can terminate the appointment by giving one month’s notice in writing to the person concerned.
Any member of the Garda Siochana or any Authorised Officer can, if they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed under the Wildlife Acts 1976-2000, stop and search a suspected person or anyone they believe is connected with the offence at all reasonable times and can demand names and addresses of such persons. They can also demand to inspect any licence held under these Acts and any specimens (specimens include living as well as dead fauna or any flora) or, including fauna, flora, fossils, minerals etc. In the case of a person living in an EU country other than Ireland, a Garda or Authorised Officer may demand for inspection, any Firearms Pass or other document issued by a competent national authority in the country of residence. Similarly, they may demand to inspect any permit or certificate issued under the CITES Regulations. They may demand to inspect anything, including equipment, firearms, nets, traps, spears, bait etc., including any dog or bird capable of being used to assist in hunting. Any specimen or part or product of a specimen may be seized as evidence for any court proceedings. Where it is suspected that a person is committing an offence or has been committing an offence, an Authorised Officer or member of the Garda Siochana may request that person to cease the offending activity. If the suspected person fails to desist, then either the Garda or Authorised Officer has the power of arrest. Where an Authorised Officer exercises that power, he/she must hand the arrested person over to the Garda Siochana as soon as possible.
This Section of the Act also gives the Garda Siochana and Authorised Officers powers of search of any vehicle and power to open any package and examine any document which refers to the specimen concerned, but not examination of vehicle records or documentation. However, before doing so, they must have reasonable grounds for suspecting an offence has been committed under the Wildlife Acts 1976-2000. Vehicles, vessels, aircraft etc., may be seized as evidence in a prosecution. Powers of search extend also to land, but not to dwellings. The entry by an Authorised Officer or Garda into buildings on land, which of course includes a dwelling, pursuant to the investigation of an offence, was always prohibited under the Wildlife Act 1976. However, it should be noted that this has been changed to distinguish between a dwelling house and other buildings, (such as sheds, stables, barns etc.) which now may be entered.
The Gardai and Authorised Officers may take samples of the specimen, including blood, in order to determine the identity or ancestry of any specimen. However, blood samples may be taken only by a qualified vet, and then only if the vet confirms that the taking of blood will not cause any lasting harm to the specimen.
Every Authorised Officer is furnished with a Certificate of Authorisation which must be produced at the request of the person affected by any action of the Authorised Officer. If an Authorised Officer cannot produce or fails to produce the original of his signed authorization, he shall have no authority to act as an Authorised Officer and no person shall be obliged to comply or co-operate with any instruction or request from the officer concerned. Nothing in this Section will in any way interfere with a Garda’s powers of seizure under any other Act of the Oireachtas.