30/05/2019

Raid Warrants On Belfast Journalists To Be Quashed

Warrants obtained by the PSNI to raid the homes and offices of two Belfast journalists are to be quashed, the High Court has ruled.

Senior judges held on Wednesday 29 May that authorisation for the searches of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey's propertes had been inappropriate.

The two investigative journalists were involved in producing the film 'No Stone Unturned' which looked at the unsolved Loughinisland Massacre of 1994.

A further hearing will determine whether documents seized in the operation should be returned.

The outcome is perceived as a victory for Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey in their challenge to the legality of warrants granted as part of an investigation into the alleged theft of confidential documents from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's Office.

Following two days in court, Lord Chief Justice Morgan said he was "minded to quash" the search warrants.

Speaking after the decision, Mr McCaffrey said the case had been a "deliberate and determined" attack on press freedom and the media's ability to hold those in power to proper scrutiny.
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"There were dark forces at the heart of this case and if we had lost it would have had huge ramifications for investigative journalism throughout Ireland and the UK."

Chair of the National Union of Journalists executive council, Gerry Carson, commented: "This is a wonderful outcome for journalists everywhere. Our thanks for the great support from NUJ members, Amnesty International, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and many others groups and organisations who have been involved in this campaign."

Amnesty International UK also welcomed the High Court declaration. NI Programme Director Patrick Corrigan said it was a good news day for press freedom throughout the UK.

"This is a vindication of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey's vital work in investigating the events of that horrific night in Loughinisland in 1994, and the actions of the police in allowing the killers to go free," Mr Corrigan commented.

"Almost 25 years after the massacre, it is not lost on anyone that the only people so far to face a court room in connection with the massacre are two journalists who bravely exposed the extent of police collusion with the murderers.

"Journalists must be free to investigate issues of public concern without fear of arrest and imprisonment."



(JG/CM)

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