Northern Ireland

Loughinisland: Journalists claim 'malicious intent' in case

Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey Image copyright PA
Image caption The items collected included laptops, hard drives, mobile phones, notepads and millions of digital files

One of the two journalists who had material seized by police has claimed there was a "malicious intent" in the investigation.

Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey were arrested in August 2018 over the suspected theft of confidential files.

The journalists had been involved in a documentary on the Loughinisland attack in 1994.

Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey collected their possessions from a police station in east Belfast on Tuesday.

The items collected included laptops, hard drives, mobile phones, notepads and millions of digital files.

On Monday, police confirmed the case against the two journalists had been dropped.

It followed a court ruling that the search warrants issued against them had been "inappropriate".

Anonymous whistleblower

The investigation related to the alleged theft of documents from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's office.

Durham police were brought in by the Police Service of Northern Ireland to investigate the case.

The documentary film, No Stone Unturned, examined the Royal Ulster Constabulary's handling of the 1994 Loughinisland killings by loyalist paramilitary group, the UVF.

The reporters, who say the material on the Loughinisland killings came from an anonymous whistleblower, had been on bail since their arrest.

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Media caption'Why did it take so long for police to come to their senses?'

Speaking on BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster, Mr Birney said he believed the recent legal ruling forced police to drop the investigation.

Mr Birney added that he believed some senior PSNI officers still had difficulty accepting there was police collusion.

"I think there was a malicious intent in this investigation," said Mr Birney.

"I think it's very well known that many in the upper ranks of the PSNI still have difficulty in the truth that there was collusion in Loughinisland and that the police did collude with the UVF in murdering six men in June 1994, almost 25 years ago."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey collected their belongings from Castlereagh police station and they were joined by Emma Rogan, whose father was killed in the Loughinisland attack

Mr Birney also called for PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton to apologise to the families of those killed in Loughinisland.

"George Hamilton should apologise to the Loughinisland families for putting them through this," he said.

"To see them at the back of the court again last week seemingly having to defend their integrity and their relatives that died, it's shocking that George Hamilton and the PSNI decided to put them through this again, and for what?"

'Sensitive investigation'

In a statement on Monday evening, Mr Hamilton announced that the case against the two journalists was being dropped.

He thanked Durham Constabulary and Chief Constable Mike Barton for their part in what he called a "sensitive investigation".

Mr Hamilton said he fully concurred with the decision not to progress the investigation adding that "the horror of what happened in Loughinisland has never been far from any of our thoughts".

He said the fact that no-one had been brought to justice was "a matter of huge regret for policing".

Mr Barton said some final lines of inquiry had still to be assessed, but these did not include the journalists.

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