NUJ calls for open court judicial hearings into unlawful journalists’ surveillance

  • 26 Feb 2024

The union has strongly urged long-awaited hearings of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal into targeted covert surveillance of journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney by UK authorities, be held in open court.

Investigatory Powers Tribunal  (IPT) hearings scheduled for 28 and 29 February relate to a complaint submission by the "No Stone Unturned" journalists in 2019, and present an opportunity for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Durham constabulary to disclose the full extent of the alleged surveillance and breaches to McCaffrey and Birney’s rights through unlawful monitoring. However, the NUJ understands at least one of the hearing’s sessions, not all, will be heard in open court.

The union vehemently stresses that the decision to hold sessions in private runs counter to the open justice principle and the need for transparency, considering historic abuses of power already a matter of public record. The PSNI has admitted to unlawful monitoring of McCaffrey’s phone, in action strongly condemned by the NUJ for its implications on the enshrined right of journalists to protect sources and confidential journalistic material.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said:

“This case is of fundamental importance and is of concern to journalists globally. The principle that justice should be administered in public is sacred and never more important than in these landmark hearings. The facts which will be revealed are of immense importance and we stand with our member Barry McCaffrey and with Trevor Birney at this time.” 

Dooley will represent the NUJ on 28 February alongside Natasha Hirst, NUJ president. Tim Dawson, the International Federation of Journalists’ deputy general secretary will also be present at the Royal Courts of Justice for the hearings. NUJ members will join representatives at 9am on hearing dates, recognising the significance following multiple delays to original court dates.

NUJ members attending on the day should tag @nujofficial on X and @official.nuj on Facebook with images. 

NUJ welcomes final settlement for No Stone Unturned journalists.

PSNI unlawfully monitored “No Stone Unturned” journalist’s communications. 

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