Northern Ireland news

Raid on journalists' homes and offices 'should be ruled unlawful'

Investigative journalists Trevor Birney (left) and Barry McCaffrey were arrested in August

A RAID on the homes and office of investigative journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney should be ruled unlawful, two leading campaign groups have said.

Index on Censorship and English PEN have intervened in the journalists' case to make a submission to the High Court in Northern Ireland.

The pair were arrested and questioned in August following the release of their documentary No Stone Unturned about the loyalist murder of six men in Loughinisland in 1994.

They were arrested over the alleged theft of confidential material from the offices of the Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire.

The journalists and Fine Point Films will argue in a judicial review case to be heard in Belfast next week that the search warrants used to carry out the raids were unlawful and improperly executed.

Index on Censorship and English PEN filed a written submission to the court on May 17 after they were granted permission to intervene.

“The application for and execution of the search warrants was wholly disproportionate,” the submission states.

It also notes the “chilling effect” of such orders.

“That chilling effect is considerably more acute when the application is made ex parte [with respect to or in the interests of one side only or of an interested outside party], when authorities on the rights of journalists are not brought to the Court's attention, and when the manner of the execution of the search warrants is so severe… such conduct is likely to have the effect of intimidating journalists throughout Northern Ireland and further afield.”

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