This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 20 °C Friday 7 August, 2020
Advertisement

PSNI Chief Constable apologises for arrests and unlawful searches of two Belfast journalists' homes

In 2018, the offices of two journalists were searched who were investigating the 1994 Loughinisland massacre.

Investigative journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney.
Investigative journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney.
Image: Michael Cooper via PA Images

THE CHIEF CONSTABLE of the PSNI has apologised to two journalists who were arrested and had their homes searched under a warrant that was later deemed “unlawful” by a High Court. 

In August 2018, searches were carried out in conjunction with the Durham Constabulary on two homes and an office in Belfast based on suspicion of theft, with police seizing a number of documents and computer equipment.

The men were then questioned at Musgrave Police Station about the alleged theft, and were then released on bail

In 2019, High Court judges ruled the search warrants issued against the two men were “inappropriate” and recommended the seized materials be returned. Lord Chief Justice Morgan said the court had heard nothing to indicate the journalists had done anything wrong.

He said they had acted in a perfectly proper manner with a view to protecting their sources in a lawful way. 

police-ombudsman Investigative journalists Barry McCaffrey (left) and Trevor Birney carry returned documents in Belfast. Source: Liam McBurney via PA Images

In a statement today by the Chief Constable of the PSNI Simon Byrne, both journalists received an “unreserved apology”:

This morning I have written to both Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney offering them an unreserved apology for the distress and upset caused to them and their families following the execution of search warrants at their homes and business premises on 31 August 2018.
While the searches were planned and conducted at the direction of officers from Durham Constabulary, those officers were acting on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland in an external capacity and I fully accept the ruling of the Lord Chief Justice that the search warrants were unlawful.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland will be reviewing all findings of the judgment to ensure that all appropriate learning is taken.”

I have notified both Mr McCaffrey and Mr Birney’s legal representatives that I am keen to resolve all the outstanding matters through a process of mediation in order to bring this matter to a conclusion.

Until these issues are resolved the Police Service of Northern Ireland will be making no further comment, the statement concluded.

Loughinisland massacre

The two accomplished journalists had worked together on No Stone Unturned, a “chilling” documentary about the murders at the Loughinisland pub in 1994.

On 18 June of that year, people had gathered in a small pub The Heights Bar in the village of Loughinisland, Co Down to watch the Republic of Ireland play against Italy in the World Cup.

During that night, members of the loyalist paramilitary group the UVF burst in and opened fire, killing six civilians and wounding five. The group later claimed the attack was retaliation for the killing of UVF members.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

No one has ever been charged with the killings.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Read next:

COMMENTS (11)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel