Belfast Telegraph

Terror suspects' privacy invaded by police monitoring, court told

Belfast High Court
Belfast High Court

By Alan Erwin

Terror suspects are suffering an invasion of their privacy by police remotely monitoring their interviews, the High Court has heard.

Lawyers for a west Belfast man arrested as part of an investigation into dissident republican activity claimed it was a "draconian" step with implications for personal reputations during a hearing on Tuesday.

Risteard O Murchu is mounting a legal challenge to the policy of downstreaming - where police questioning is observed at another location by other individuals.

The 49-year-old Ballymurphy man was detained by detectives in May, but released unconditionally later the same day.

At the time he secured a police undertaking that no monitoring would be carried out after bringing emergency proceedings.

His legal team have now commenced a wider attempt to have the policy declared unlawful.

Judicial review proceedings centre on the use of downstreaming in interviews under the Terrorism Act.

Similar proceedings have also been brought on behalf of a north Belfast woman questioned under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act as part of an investigation into suspected benefit fraud.

Opening both cases, Ronan Lavery QC contended there should be safeguards including a code of practice because of the level of infringement involved.

"These are draconian powers, they should specify precisely what is permitted by the statute," he said.

"The downstreaming of interviews at another location to be viewed by persons unknown is an intrusion of privacy, it could be absolutely anyone in that other room."

Judges were told that both oral and visual recordings are involved.

Mr Lavery argued those being questioned about suspected criminal offences could be concerned that an alibi could be embarrassing for their personal reputations. 

"Your responses to those questions may well be (affected) by your fear of who else may be listening," he added.

The case continues.

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