Northern Ireland: Decision not to prosecute in Patricia Devlin threats case shows system is failing to protect press freedom

© Patricia Devlin

 

Responding to a decision not to bring forward a prosecution in relation to threats against the award-winning Northern Ireland journalist Patricia Devlin and her baby, Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

“We’re very concerned at this decision not to bring forward a prosecution of the person believed to be behind these appalling threats to Patricia Devlin and her baby.

“For three-and-half years, Patricia has sought justice for the vile threats made against her new-born baby, just one of countless threats she’s had to endure. She’s been let down repeatedly, first by an inadequate police investigation and now by a failure to prosecute.

“If the case is considered a litmus test over whether Northern Ireland’s criminal justice system will protect journalists from intimidation, then we must conclude that it is failing.

“This PPS decision will strengthen a feeling of impunity among those who already feel emboldened to make threats of violence against journalists.

“Threats designed to shut down press scrutiny of criminal and paramilitary activity cannot be allowed to succeed in undermining press freedom in Northern Ireland.”

Demand for action

In October 2019, journalist Patricia Devlin, an award-winning crime reporter working for the Sunday World newspaper, received a threat by direct message to her personal Facebook account against her baby. 

In 2020, Amnesty supported Devlin in lodging a complaint with the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland in relation to the lack of an effective investigation by the PSNI into a threat to rape her new-born son. This complaint was upheld by the Police Ombudsman in September 2021, who found that it was “concerning that police failed to take measures to arrest the suspect at the earliest opportunity”.

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