Northern Ireland news

Journalists finally collect Loughinisland documents from PSNI station

Notes, printed documents and Trevor Birney's daughter's pink mobile phone were among the materials that had been seized by police 

JOURNALISTS Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey arrived at Castlereagh PSNI station to finally collect their confidential documents yesterday - nine months after their seizure during dawn arrest raids.

Just hours earlier the police investigation against them was dramatically halted by senior officers following a successful court challenge by the reporters behind the Loughinisland massacre documentary No Stone Unturned.

Supporters from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Amnesty International, with their now-familiar banners, accompanied them as they gathered the boxes and bags of material from a white van.

Also at the east Belfast station were colleagues from The Detail and Fine Point Films whose unrelated files were among the items taken from Belfast offices by police.

"(There are) documents that have been seized from the desks of some our colleagues who stand behind us and that's exactly where they should be," Mr Birney said.

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"They should be on their desks, not inside this police station where they have been held for nine months.

"I think it's a good day for journalism, it's a good day for press freedom and we thank the Lord Chief Justice and the court because this wouldn't happened if it wasn't for his ruling yesterday morning that quashed the warrant."

It was after Sir Declan Morgan and fellow judges Sir Seamus Treacy and Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan quashed warrants used by police to seize laptops, hard drives, mobile phones, notepads and millions of digital files from the homes and offices of the journalists that detectives dramatically ended the investigation into them.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had asked Durham Constabulary to investigate the alleged theft of material from the Office of the Police Ombudsman used in the award-winning film No Stone Unturned.

Both organisations confirmed on Monday that the reporters were no longer under investigation, although they said the wider probe would continue.

Mr McCaffrey said their names "were dragged through the mud".

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"Trevor's children were forced to watch him being arrested and taken away, an eight-year-old girl. Was this necessary? Why did this have to happen?"

Among the items returned yesterday were Mr Birney's wife's phone and his daughter's pink phone.

He said: "The key thing that you can see is finally my daughter is getting her little lollypop USB stick back, which apparently has her GCSE homework coursework on.

"These were obviously critical to the investigation into myself and Barry and what we are meant to have done.

"It tells you everything you need to know about this investigation."

He said those who directed, led and oversaw what the police were doing had questions to answer.

"This investigation really had no focus other than sending a chill factor to journalists and no matter who got caught up in that, whether it was my children or Barry's family."

He asked: "What is the evidential value of a pink phone, a USB stick and a lollypop USB stick?

"It is ridiculous, it is laughable, and I think there have to be questions asked and answers given - people have to be held to account."

Among the high-profile campaigners supporting the pair have been the film's director Alex Gibney and Conservative politician David Davis.

 

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