Belfast journalists in judicial review over police raids
A police raid on the Belfast homes and office of two investigative journalists will be challenged as part of a judicial review starting at the Royal Courts of Justice in the city today.
Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey were arrested and questioned by police in August 2018 in connection with the documentary film No Stone Unturned.
The pair have not been charged and remain on bail until September this year.
They were detained last year over the alleged theft of documents from the Police Ombudsman's Office.
The papers relate to the RUC investigation of the murder of six Catholic men in a bar in Loughinisland, Co Down, in 1994.
UVF terrorists opened fire in a village pub as their victims watched a World Cup football match.
A 2016 report from the Police Ombudsman found there had been collusion between the RUC and the UVF killers and that the subsequent police investigation had been undermined by a desire to protect those responsible for the massacre.
The men killed were: Adrian Rogan (34), Malcolm Jenkinson (53), Barney Green (87), Daniel McCreanor (59), Patrick O'Hare (35), and Eamon Byrne (39).
No Stone Unturned explored the unsolved killings and police investigation in detail and named one of the alleged killers.
The judicial review in Belfast will focus on the legitimacy of the search warrants used by police to carry out the raids.
Last August detectives from Durham Constabulary, supported by officers from the PSNI, raided the journalists' homes and offices, seizing documents and computers, which the journalists are fighting to have returned.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: "Now more than ever we need critical, bold, outstanding investigative journalism that is in the public interest.
"Democracy is in danger without it.
"Journalists should never be targeted for simply doing their jobs and for shining a light on human rights abuses in Northern Ireland and crucially the state's complicity in the killing of civilians.
"The continuing legal threats faced by Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey and the way the search warrants were granted and used can not go unchallenged.
"This case has huge ramifications for the whole media industry and the NUJ will do everything it can to support those who fight for the truth."
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director, said: "This case is crucial to the freedom of the press in the UK.
"Journalists must be free to investigate issues of public concern without fear of arrest and imprisonment.
"When armed police are raiding the homes of journalists, while helping killers evade justice, there is something deeply wrong.
"Simon Byrne, the newly-appointed PSNI Chief Constable, ought to be deeply troubled by this case and the reputational damage it is causing the police force he is now set to lead.
"If he is wise, he will draw a line under this affair, apologise to Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney and commit the PSNI to putting the Loughinisland killers, rather than journalists, behind bars."
Gerry Carson, chair of the NUJ's Irish executive council, will lead union members outside the Courts of Justice.
The Media Lawyers Association, which is an association of in-house media lawyers from newspapers, magazines, book publishers, broadcasters and news agencies in the UK, has intervened in the judicial review, given its significance.
Freedom of expression groups, English PEN and Index on Censorship, have also submitted evidence and have called for the search warrants to be ruled unlawful.