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Police drop case after court vindicates Belfast journalists

Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney   -  © Kevin Cooper Photoline

3 June 2019

The National Union of Journalists has welcomed the confirmation that the criminal investigation by the PSNI and Durham Constabulary into Belfast journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey has been dropped.

The two NUJ members were told of the decision tonight after arrangements for the return of journalistic material illegally seized last August were confirmed in the High Court in Belfast.

The Lord Chief Justice was advised that the material would be available for collection tomorrow morning. On Friday the High Court upheld the judicial appeal by the two journalists against the seizure of confidential journalistic material.

In a statement the NUJ tonight called for an independent investigation into the manner in which the journalists were treated by the police officers. Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said:

“We welcome the decision to end the investigation but this case raises a number of fundamental questions about the attitude of the PSNI and Durham Constabulary towards the media. The manner in which warrants were secured, the execution of those warrants, the severe bail restrictions imposed on Barry and Trevor and the damage done to their reputation cannot simply be brushed aside on foot of a High Court judgement which could not have been more damning. There should be an independent investigation into the police handling of this case.

“The Chief Justice was clear and unambiguous, not just in upholding the appeal but in explicitly asserting the right of NUJ members to adhere to their union’s Code of Professional Conduct.

 “The focus of police attention should have been on the Loughinisland massacre. The documentary, No Stone Unturned, is profoundly disturbing and serves as a reminder of the significant failures over 25 years to secure justice for the families of that terrible event. The past nine months has caused additional grief and stress to those families. In welcoming the announcement our thoughts are with them at this time.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“NUJ members everywhere will be relieved by the decision to end this outrageous investigation. As the High Court determined last week Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey acted at all times in an appropriate and ethical manner. There was never any justification for their arrest and all of us have been impressed by the determination of our members.”

Gerry Carson, Chair, Irish Executve Council said:

“I am  delighted that belatedly the PSNI have seen sense and brought to a conclusion the persecution of two outstanding journalists - who in the words of the Lord Chief Justice - were simply following NUJ guidelines by refusing to reveal their sources.

“We acknowledge the great support given by NUJ colleagues, by Amnesty, by ICTU and many other organisations and individuals who gave unstinting support in the campaign to force the PSNI to withdraw their arrests and to return all the documents and equipment which the Appeal Court ruled had wrongly been taken by the police. At last the unwarranted stress placed on our members and their families can be lifted.”

Tags: , belfast, trevor birney, barry mccaffrey, no stone unturned