The Minister for Justice has said there are difficulties with current legislation around the State accessing telephone records but he does not accept it is unconstitutional.

Charlie Flanagan was speaking after publishing the findings of an independent review into laws in the area.

The Government today published draft legislation that aims to provide clarity around phone records and who can access them.

It proposes that gardaí and other State agencies should have to ask a District Court judge for permission to access the telephone records of someone suspected of a serious offence.

This legislation has its origins in events dating back almost two years, when it emerged that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission had accessed journalists' records.

The Government then asked retired Supreme Court judge John L Murray to examine the laws in this area.

In his report, Mr Justice Murray recommended that there should be a law prohibiting the State from accessing journalists' communications records to discover their sources, unless it is fully justified in the public interest.

He said any statutory body seeking this information should first require the permission of a High Court Judge.

Asked about the protection of journalists' sources, the Minister for Justice said Government must balance individual liberties with the work of combatting national and international crime.