Subpoena, Search Warrant and Production Order


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Fine Point Films et al v PSNI et al [2020] NICA 35

In this decision the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland quashed the search warrants and upheld the protection of journalistic sources.

This case is concerned with the circumstances in which police can use the ex parte procedure contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (“PACE”) to obtain a search warrant in respect of journalistic material. The applicants were seeking orders quashing warrants issued to Detective Sgt Henderson of the serious crime branch of the PSNI on 10 August 2018 by His Honour Judge Rafferty QC authorising the search of the homes of the second and third applicants and the business premises of each of them in connection with the investigation by Durham Constabulary of offences of theft, handling stolen goods, unlawful disclosure of information entrusted in confidence and unlawfully obtaining personal data.

The three applicants for judicial review, Fine Point Films, Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey were all involved in the production of an investigative documentary (No Stone Unturned) about six men who were murdered by the UVF in 1994.

In January 2012 the families of the six men murdered by the UVF approached Mr Birney to examine the prospect of making a documentary about their experience. The Detail (an online investigative news and analysis platform), began an investigation under the direction of Mr McCaffrey.

In 2015 production finance was secured and research with relevant police officers, families and others continued. The film was screened for the first time at the New York Film Festival on 30 September 2017. The UK premiere of the film was on 7 October 2017 at the London Film Festival.