A Crown Court judge has ordered three television channels to hand over riot footage to the PSNI.
Judge Piers Grant ordered the BBC, UTV and ITN to hand over all unbroadcast television footage they have of public order disturbances in the Bogside area of Londonderry during last August's Apprentice Boys of Derry parade.
The application for the footage was made last week by a barrister for the PSNI at the city’s Crown Court.
It was opposed by a barrister for the channels who said if it was granted it could pose a very real and potent threat to the news organisations in that they could be deemed to be evidence gatherers and a limb of the state.
In his reserved judgment, Judge Grant said the application was made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Order 1989.
Judge Grant said the application related to “serious public order disturbances in the Bogside area of the city on August 13 and August 14”.
He said journalists were properly present to record television footage of what had occurred.
He went on to say there was “an anxiety on the part of the participants in the disturbances to avoid detection by wearing scarfs or balaclavas in an effort to conceal their identity”.
The judge said he was therefore satisfied there might be relevant evidence in the unbroadcast material — people who were in the area before the disturbances started and who later became involved who could be identified by their clothing.
He added he was not satisfied that the handing over of the unbroadcast material to the PSNI would cause a risk to the life or limb of the news photographers who recorded the footage.
Concluding, he ordered the BBC, UTV and ITN to hand over “all unbroadcast television footage recorded in the Bogside between 4pm on August 13 and 1am on August 14” to the police.
The National Union of Journalists has condemned the rise in production orders: “Media workers are independent... they should never be seen as collectors of information for the state. It is an attack on press freedom and turns every photographer, videographer and journalist into a potential target.”