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Northern Ireland: Fresh cases of PSNI surveillance 'come out of the woodwork'

A new report presented to the Policing Board last week has identified up to 18 incidents of intrusive surveillance by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) involving members of the media and legal profession.

Disclosures via the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) previously revealed that the police deployed covert surveillance on journalists on at least three occasions, in 2011, 2013 and 2018.

Amnesty International and the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) reiterate calls to the Policing Board to hold an inquiry into covert surveillance by the PSNI against journalists and lawyers.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“It comes as no surprise that these cases have come out of the woodwork but it’s still chilling to say the least.

“A free press and an independent legal system are cornerstones of any democracy, and the police are flagrantly violating this by conducting covert and intrusive surveillance on lawyers as well as journalists in Northern Ireland.

“We already know about three incidents of police surveillance of journalists, but this new information seems to confirm our fears that these incidents are part of a wider pattern of the police abusing their powers on secret surveillance.

“We want the PSNI to come clean and we continue to call on the Policing Board to hold an inquiry into potentially unlawful use of covert surveillance. It’s time for full transparency, scrutiny and accountability.” 

Daniel Holder, director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, said:

“Police spying on lawyers and journalists is often associated with undemocratic regimes, it requires compelling justification.”

“Revelations of police spying on lawyers raises questions as to whether there has been interference in the administration of justice. The proper functioning of the legal system is reliant on confidentiality of legal communications between lawyers and clients.”

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