Council denies trying to get copy of court report before it was published

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council chief executive Anne Donaghy
Connla Young

A Co Antrim council has denied that any member of staff tried to obtain details of a court case involving the family of its chief executive by falsely claiming to be a BBC reporter.

The incident is alleged to have taken place hours before the Irish News revealed that Mid and East Antrim Borough Council chief executive Anne Donaghy was accused in court of confronting her father along with two of her siblings in a bid to force him to sign over property.

A freelance court reporter who covered the case has alleged that she was contacted by a person who claimed to be a BBC journalist and asked to provide a copy of the story which had already been sent to the BBC.

The experienced reporter said she became suspicious about the approach after the person claimed that she was unable access her BBC email account outside work and instead provided a hotmail account.

The reporter says that when she contacted the BBC, officials confirmed the person who made the call was not working on behalf of the broadcaster.

The court reporter says she was contacted by phone shortly after the council was approached by the Irish News for comment and now believes the person she spoke to was linked to the council.

However, in a statement issued last night the council said it was not responsible.

“Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has not requested via any staff member any court documentation, copy or reports in connection with any personal legal matter pertaining to the family of its chief executive,” a spokeswoman said.

“Under no circumstances would any council officer be requested to make false representation and no allegation of same has been made to council about any council employee by the BBC.”

A BBC Northern Ireland spokesman said: “We are aware of this incident. The individual does not work for the BBC and the BBC did not cover this story.”

When challenged by the court reporter via text message the person claiming to be a BBC journalist said she was working on a story regarding the case and later offered to pay for the court report.

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