Judge rules against BBC handing material to PSNI
12 January 2012
Judge Tom Burgess, the Belfast Recorder, decided not to order the BBC to hand over video shot at a Real IRA parade in Derry in April 2011 to the PSNI. The NUJ has welcomed the decision.
Judge Tom Burgess ruled yesterday that he had been given insufficient evidence by the police to prove the video could assist experts in identifying the men. He also said that the PSNI had failed to show that the video would be of substantial value in its investigation.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, said that the ruling was "extremely significant" and expressed the hope that it would "send a signal to the PSNI that trawling exercises had no place in police investigations."
The police had claimed it could be used to identify masked men by the way they walked or by facial features under balaclavas. The case arose after 10 men dressed in paramilitary uniform paraded in Derry's city cemetery at a 32 County Sovereignty movement commemoration.
The BBC challenged the application for the handing over of unbroadcast material on the grounds that doing so would endanger its staff. The BBC also claimed that the PSNI was fully aware of the likely nature of the parade and had failed to prevent it or film it themselves.
The BBC provided Judge Tom Burgess with evidence that the parade in the two previous years had included paramilitary elements and threatening speeches.
Michelle Stanistreet said:
"Judge Burgess said that he has been given no indication about the specific purpose of the material and that the PSNI did not accept that the handing over of material would be of specific benefit. The application did not meet the requirement of the Terrorism Act 2000."
Barry McCall, NUJ Vice President, also welcomed the court decision and congratulated the BBC on the vigorous stand taken in resisting the order. He said:
"We welcome the stand taken by the BBC and other media organisations against the backdrop of persistent attempts by the PSNI to force journalists and their employers to hand over material."