Belfast Recorder says journalist does not have to hand over to police video footage shot at Real IRA parade

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THE National Union of Journalists has welcomed the decision of the Belfast Recorder not to order the BBC to hand over video shot at a Real IRA parade in Derry in April 2011 to the PSNI.

Yesterday Judge Tom Burgess ruled that he had been given insufficient evidence by the police  to prove the video could assist experts in identifying the men and that the PSNI had failed to show that the video would be of substantial value in its investigation.  NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the ruling was “extremely significant” and expressed the hope that it would “send a signal to the PSNI that trawling exercises had no place in police investigations.”

The police had claimed it could be used to identify masked men by the way they walked or by facial features under balaclavas.  The case arose after 10 men dressed in paramilitary uniform paraded in Derry’s City cemetery at  a 32 County Sovereignty movement commemoration.

The BBC challenged  the application for the handing over of unbroadcast material,  on the grounds doing so would endanger its staff. The BBC also claimed  that the PSNI was fully aware of the likely nature of the parade and had failed to prevent it or film it themselves.  The BBC provided Belfast Recorder, Judge Tom Burgess, with evidence that the parade in the two previous years had included paramilitary elements and threatening speeches.

Ms Stanistreet said: “Judge Burgess said that he has been given no indication about the specific purpose of the material  and that the PSNI did not accept that the handing over of material would be of specific benefit.

The application did not meet the requirement of the Terrorism Act 2000.”

NUJ Vice President Barry McCall also welcomed the court decision and congratulated the BBC on the vigorous  stand taken in resisting the order. He said: “We welcome the stand taken by the BBC and other media organisations against the backdrop of  persistent attempts by the PSNI to force journalists and their employers to hand over material.”


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