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Northern Ireland: ‘Victory for press freedom’ as police drop case against investigative journalists

Journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney outside Belfast High Court today, with lawyers and representatives of Amnesty and NUJ © Copyright © Kevin Cooper Photoline NUJ

‘Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey have won a famous victory for press freedom’ - Patrick Corrigan

Amnesty International has welcomed a decision by Durham Police to drop the criminal investigation of Northern Ireland journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey. 

The decision comes after the journalists were successful in having Belfast High Court quash the search warrants which were used to raid their homes and office.

NUJ members Birney and McCaffrey were arrested and questioned by police in August 2018 in connection with the documentary film No Stone Unturned. The pair have not been charged and have remained on bail since their arrests.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

“Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey have won a famous victory for press freedom.

“If they’d lost, every investigative reporter in the UK would have been living in fear of a dawn raid by the police. 

“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.

“The Chief Constables of Durham Police and the PSNI owe apologies to Barry and Trevor, as well as their families and colleagues. 

“Almost 25 years after the Loughinisland murders, the most effective way for the PSNI to demonstrate that they have learnt the lessons of this case would be to finally commit to putting the killers - rather than responsible journalists - behind bars.” 

No Stone Unturned documentary

Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey were arrested and questioned by police in August 2018 in connection with the 2017 documentary film No Stone Unturned. The film, directed by Oscar-winning film-maker Alex Gibney, explored the unsolved murder of six men watching a World Cup football match in a bar in the village of Loughinisland, County Down in 1994, examining the police investigation in detail and naming one of the alleged killers.

A 2016 report from the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland had found there had been collusion between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Volunteer Force killers in Loughinisland, and that the subsequent police investigation had been undermined by a desire to protect those responsible for the murders.

 Last August, Birney and McCaffrey were arrested in connection with an alleged breach of the Official Secrets Act, relating to confidential documents about the Loughinisland police investigation. An estimated 100 police officers from the PSNI and Durham Constabulary raided the journalists’ homes and offices, seizing documents and computers, which the men have since fought to have returned.

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