Northern Ireland news

Information commissioner queries handling of Kingsmill documents

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson.

THE Information Commissioner has asked to the PSNI to "revisit" its decision to give confidential intelligence documents, to the Security Industry Authority as part of an unrelated investigation.

The documents, including a document linked to the Kingsmill Massacre, were seized from the home of loyalist activist Jamie Bryson in 2018, following raids linked to the unlawful supply of doormen.

They included a confidential intelligence document with an unredacted list of 'suspects', alleged to have been involved in the IRA murders of ten Protestant workmen in January 1976 near the village of Whitecross in South Armagh.

In August 2019 the High Court ruled that the searches of Mr Bryson's home were unlawful and that “on balance” the loyalist had established he was entitled to be treated as a journalist and accordingly “as a matter of law” a different procedure should have been applied in seeking the search warrants.

Mr Justice McCloskey ruled the warrants used to execute the searches were wrongly obtained but did not have them formally quashed.

The PSNI sought to appeal the court's findings to the Supreme Court, however permission was refused by Lord Justice Kerr. Mr Bryson has launched a civil case against the PSNI in relation to the unlawfully obtained warrants.

In September 2019 the documents, along with laptops and an iPod seized by police during searches of a property in Donaghadee, Co Down, were returned to Mr Bryson.

They included a confidential intelligence document that was not made available to the coroner investigating the Kingsmill Massacre.

Mr Bryson later brought a complaint to the Information Commissioner claiming that the PSNI had no lawful authority to hand the documents seized during the searches of his home and a community office to the SIA.

The loyalist claimed it was unlawful to provide the SIA with any material which was unrelated to their regulatory functions.

As well as classified Kingsmill security files, other documents include material linked to the Nama property scandal.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has now written to the PSNI saying: "We do not expect to receive complaints when there is still further that can be done to better explain the processing in question, or to put things right when things have gone wrong.

"We therefore require PSNI to revisit the way it has handled this matter and consider what further action it can now take to resolve this complaint".

The ICO has given the PSNI 28 days to engage with Mr Bryson in relation to the matter.

The loyalist said there are "serious issues as to how the PSNI flagrantly handed over not only confidential journalistic material, but personal data to the SIA. This is a door supervision regulatory body and therefore there was no lawful basis for providing any private documentation unrelated to their statutory functions.

"I welcome that the ICO has forcefully intervened and I look forward to the PSNI engaging with proposals as to how to remedy this matter within 28 days”.

A spokesperson for the PSNI said: "We can confirm that correspondence has been received from the Information Commissioner and it is under consideration".

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