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

  • 24 Jul 2023

NUJ condemns unlawful surveillance of Barry McCaffrey by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and calls for an open hearing into events.   

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has revealed journalist Barry McCaffrey, co-creator of the “No Stone Unturned” film exploring police actions investigating the murders of six men killed in 1994 in Northern Ireland, had his phone unlawfully monitored by the PSNI in 2013.   

In 2019, McCaffrey and Birney submitted a request to the IPT seeking an investigation into whether they had been surveilled by the service. Upon confirmation that McCaffrey's communications had been monitored in 2013 four years prior to the film’s release, both journalists agreed to attend an IPT open hearing on 17 July, on whether surveillance could be considered by a tribunal due to the length of time passed.   

The PSNI’s last-minute decision to avoid contesting led to cancellation of the hearing and although action to concede was well-received, it has left the journalists seeking clarity on why a secret hearing is being pursued as an option by authorities. 

Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said:  

“By any measure this is a shocking revelation and is the cause of utmost concern. It confirms that the actions which informed the makers of "No Stone Unturned” were deeply rooted in a culture which has no place in a democratic society. We stand with Barry and Trevor and support their stance that a secret court hearing is entirely inappropriate.   

“The NUJ has always opposed secret investigations, justified on spurious security grounds. Trust in the PSNI will not be restored if there is a constant attempt to conceal the truth or to put barriers in the way of those who seek to carry out journalism in the public interest."   

 The NUJ supported McCaffrey and Birney in a judicial review against the PSNI for investigations into both men, including arrests and raids on their homes. 

The union was instrumental in uncovering the fundamental misuse of PSNI surveillance powers against journalists carrying out their work, severely undermining public trust and confidence.

NUJ members rallied behind strong campaigning opposing police actions and the wider implications for journalists, welcoming a 2019 High Court victory quashing their search warrants and a final settlement the following year.  

A complaint by the journalists is expected to be heard by December 2023. 

The Guardian: Secret inquiry looking at police spying claims on Northern Ireland journalists. 

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