Informers ‘killed ten’ - now NI police want search powers

Nuala O'Loan with officials; © Kevin Cooper

Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan (centre of the picture) published a report on 22 January concluding that informers working inside Loyalist paramilitary groups for the then Royal Ulster Constabulary had been involved in at least ten murders, ten attempted murders, ten "punishment" shootings and numerous other crimes.

Meanwhile, in December, the inquest into the murder of journalist Martin O'Hagan, shot outside his Lurgan home on 28 September 2001, heard from Chief Inspector Charles Patterson of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) that he was confident that eight men arrested and questioned in the weeks after the murder were behind the killing. "These people are associated with the Loyalist Volunteer Force... Unfortunately, despite extensive investigations, I don't have the evidence to proceed against these persons," he told the inquest.

And also on 22 January, the consultation period on proposals to give the PSNI new powers to seize journalists' materials closed. The proposal is for "provisions for the police to examine documents and electronic records in order to establish whether or not they contain evidence that someone has committed or is preparing to commit serious crime." In the joined-up UK, police must go through "special procedures" under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to justify seizure of journalistic materials. This NI proposal looks a lot like the thin end of a wedge. Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley said "The NUJ has a particular concern at the abuse of searches because of our past experience of 'fishing expeditions' by security forces in raids on the homes of reporters and photographers."

  • The Police and Criminal Evidence Act is one of the topics under discussion in the "Your Rights" session of the 27 February NUJ Photographers' Conference: see .

[Site map] Last modified: 5 Feb 2007 - © 2007 contributors
The Freelance editor is elected by London Freelance Branch and responsibility for content lies solely with the editors of the time
Send comments to the editors: