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06 June 2019

Police Drop Case Against Two Journalists

Police have dropped their investigation into investigative journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey after the pair were arrested over suspected theft of confidential documents from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's office.

Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey were arrested on 31 August 2018 over the suspected theft of confidential documents from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's office.

Computers, phones and documents including memory cards, cassettes and thousands of files were seized by police from the two journalists' homes and offices, The Guardian reported.

The journalists had been involved in a documentary film, No Stone Unturned which examined the Royal Ulster Constabulary's handling of the 1994 Loughinisland killings by the Ulster Volunteer Force.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton thanked Durham Constabulary and Chief Constable Mike Barton and said he fully agreed with the decision not to progress the investigation adding that "the horror of what happened in Loughinisland has never been far from any of our thoughts".

He said the fact that no-one had been brought to justice was "a matter of huge regret for policing".

Earlier on Monday, it was confirmed in court that computers, phones and documents seized by police would be handed back.

A High Court judicial review was heard by Lord Chief Justice Morgan, Lord Justice Treacy and Mrs Justice Keegan last week and ruled that the search warrants issued against the two journalists were "inappropriate".

Welcoming the news, Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said the journalists had won "a famous victory for press freedom".

He said: "It's been deeply troubling to see police trying to jail journalists who helped expose human rights abuses, rather than those who actually murdered six innocent people.”