Northern Ireland

Belfast journalists to attend tribunal hearing on spying claims

Police Ombudsman
Police Ombudsman Investigative journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA

A tribunal looking into claims the phones of two Belfast journalists were secretly monitored by UK authorities is to hold an open hearing the pair hope may “shed light” on the covert actions of police.

Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey are to attend the hearing of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) in London next week, and have said it will be “of concern to all journalists”.

The pair were falsely arrested in 2018 and their homes were raided during a probe by Durham Constabulary, supported by PSNI officers.

The probe followed a draft copy of a Police Ombudsman’s report into the 1994 Loughinisland atrocity being shown in the pair’s 2018 documentary on the UVF massacre, No Stone Unturned.

A Judicial Review in 2019 prompted an apology from both police forces.

It later emerged the PSNI secretly accessed Mr McCaffrey’s phone records and data in 2013 following a legitimate inquiry he made to the PSNI press office.

“The hearings next week should be of concern to all journalists. The use of covert powers by the police represents an attack on press freedom and we hope the tribunal will shed light on police action around the time of our film,” former Irish News reporter Mr McCaffrey said.

The IPT is an independent judicial body that investigates claims of unlawful action by public authorities using covert techniques.