O’Toole: Justice Minister needs to move on independent snooping inquiry if Policing Board will not

justice policing board matthew o'toole Media

The Justice Minister must take the initiative to deliver an independent inquiry on police surveillance of journalists if the Policing Board does not, Opposition Leader Matthew O’Toole MLA said today after an SDLP Opposition Day motion.

The Justice Minister today opposed a call for her department to establish a specific inquiry, but after pressing by the Opposition, conceded that she would engage on establishing an inquiry should the Policing Board fail to provide a meaningfully independent inquiry.

Today’s SDLP Opposition debate came after the chief constable established a review of PSNI practices which stopped short of a full statutory inquiry ahead of a further meeting of the Policing Board this Thursday.

Matthew O’Toole MLA said:

“The revelations of journalists being surveiled are profoundly serious, and have gotten progressively more concerning since they first emerged. Press freedom, and particularly the protection of sources, are a cornerstone of a free, democratic society but we know Northern Ireland is already a comparatively unsafe place to be a journalist, and our defamation regime is already used vexatiously to shut down public interest journalism.

“Given the seriousness of these issues, there is an onus on the Policing Board to use its powers to act to establish a fully independent statutory inquiry in order to understand the breadth and depth of these practices. If the Policing Board cannot or will not then the Justice Minister needs to act – this cannot be another area where her department avoids taking responsibility.”

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