Court allows journalist to defy order for notes
A Northern Ireland journalist won a significant legal battle yesterday against police attempts to obtain details of her confidential dealings with the Real IRA.
A judge ruled that the life of Suzanne Breen would be placed at risk if she was compelled to hand over material relating to the Real IRA killings of two soldiers near Belfast in March.
Journalists and human rights groups welcomed the judge's decision as significant to media freedom. Breen, the Belfast correspondent for the Dublin Sunday Tribune, had faced a prison sentence of up to five years if, as she vowed, she defied a court order to hand over information.
Police wanted to examine her computer, telephones, notes and all other material relating to stories that she wrote about the Real IRA in the wake of the murders of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar outside the Massereene army barracks in Antrim.
She said yesterday: "Today is a great victory for me and for the Tribune, but it's also a victory for journalists across Ireland and Britain and elsewhere around the world."
She had told an earlier hearing that the dissident republicans would regard any co-operation by her with the authorities as an "act of collaboration" with the security forces.
A campaign in support of her case attracted support from prominent journalists, academics and others and hundreds signed a petition organised by the National Union of Journalists.
In his judgment, the Recorder of Belfast, Judge Burgess, said there was a strong public interest in bringing the killers to justice, but he had to consider seriously the existence of a real risk to Breen's life.
He described the Real IRA as a "ruthless and murderous group of people" who, if Breen handed over material, would treat her as "as a legitimate target with the murderous consequences that could and may well follow".
The judge said that while the material that Breen held was likely to be of substantial value to the police investigation, he had to place considerable weight on the protection of life.
He said it would "be close to inconceivable as to how she, and potentially her family, could be protected."
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 5 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
Spain accused of 'provocation' after letting Russian submarine refuel off Gibraltar
The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
Allonautilus scrobiculatus: World's 'rarest' creature spotted for only the third time ever
Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
Bangkok Bomb: Thai police name Adem Karadag as suspect arrested over blast that killed 20
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn voters most likely to believe 'world is controlled by a secretive elite'
£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...
£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...