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Belfast journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey in mediation with PSNI over Loughinisland raids


Loughinisland documentary film makers Trevor Birney (left) and Barry McCaffrey

Loughinisland documentary film makers Trevor Birney (left) and Barry McCaffrey

Photopress Belfast

Loughinisland documentary film makers Trevor Birney (left) and Barry McCaffrey

Two Belfast journalists whose homes were raided are set to be involved in mediation over information retained on police systems, it has emerged.

High Court judges were told lawyers for Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey will take part in the process with PSNI representatives.

The attempted arbitration over the summer is expected to focus on any data still stored by the force, as well as the reporters' potential lawsuit for wrongful imprisonment.

In August 2018 Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey were detained, questioned and released in a case linked to a documentary film on the Loughinisland atrocity.

Raids were also carried out at their homes and offices after warrants were granted as part of an investigation into the suspected theft of confidential papers from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's Office.

Computer equipment, files, phones, cameras and notebooks were all seized during an operation undertaken by detectives from Durham Constabulary, supported by PSNI officers.

The case was connected to the No Stone Unturned documentary, which examined the Royal Ulster Constabulary's handling of the loyalist murders of six Catholic men at Loughinisland, Co Down in June 1994.

In May last year the journalists won their High Court challenge to the legality of warrants.

Judges ruled that authorisation for the searches had been inappropriate.

They also held that Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey had acted properly to protect their sources, in line with the National Union of Journalists' (NUJ) code.

Days later police confirmed they had dropped their investigation into the pair.

Even though all confiscated material was returned to the journalists after the search warrants were quashed, backed-up information remained on police systems.

Subsequent proceedings have centred on securing a final remedy over any copied data still stored.

In court today Peter Coll QC, for the PSNI, disclosed: "We are hoping to engage in a process of mediation between now and September."

Although he predicted the initiative "won't be terribly straight forward", Mr Coll expressed hope that progress could be made over the summer.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan agreed to a further adjournment, with a final resolution hearing listed for October.

Belfast Telegraph