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Calls for independent judge to filter police material following journalists raid

Barry McCaffrey & Trevor Birney (glasses), are supported by fellow NUJ Members at Belfast High Court on Friday morning. Credit: Pacemaker

A retired judge or independent lawyer should be appointed to filter out material held by police investigating two documentary makers, their barrister has said.

Barry McCaffrey (48) and Trevor Birney (51) were released on bail on Friday 31 August after being held for questioning over the alleged theft of confidential material from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

Their barrister said that officers who searched their offices had retained material which was not within the scope of their investigation.

“Police seized a quantity of journalistic material that has nothing to do with their investigation”, Barry McDonald QC said.

“This application gives rise to serious issues concerning freedom of the press and the use of police powers.”

The PSNI is asking Durham Police to investigate how material held by the Police Ombudsman ended up in a documentary produced by the journalists on the Loughinisland massacre in 1994.

The documentary explores claims of security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries in the murders at the Heights Bar in June 1994.

On Friday morning, members of the National Union of Journalists held a demonstration outside the High Court in Belfast in support of their colleagues.

Police investigating the alleged theft have already undertaken not to examine any of the material following earlier court action.