Activist 'put photos of police on Facebook'

Published Friday, 24 January 2014
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A Newry man who published photographs on his Facebook page which he took of police on duty, has gone on trial accused of possessing, collecting and communicating information likely to be of use to terrorists.

Activist 'put photos of police on Facebook'
Murney's supporters protest at the St Patrick's Day parade in Newry last year. (© UTV)

Belfast Crown Court heard that the photographs were found on a computer together with two videos on an iphone following a police search of Eirigí activist Stephen Martin Murney's home in Derrybeg Terrace, Newry in November 2012.

While Murney, who has been in custody since his arrest, denies the offences, his defence lawyer Barry Macdonald, QC, SC, applied on Thursday to Deputy Recorder Judge Corinne Philpott QC for a direction that Murney has no case to answer.

The prosecution claim that the photos, taken between August 2011 and July 2012 - including one of him being searched on two separate occasions by police, were placed on his open Facebook account which would enable any other account holder to view the photographs he had published.

However, Mr Macdonald argued that the collecting and publishing of police officers photos, prima facia, does not amount to collecting information for terrorists, as the information itself, has to be inherently sinister, rather than just sinister because of the circumstances in which it is possessed.

The lawyer said law makers did not intend for the taking of photographs, per se to amount to a criminal act.

Press photographers and political activists did so day and daily, and published their photographs.

However, in the hands of a terrorist such photographs could become information or an article under the relevant legislation.

Mr Macdonald claimed there was no authority which said that the mere possession of a photo of a police officer is an offence, as by their very nature they were not designed to be of use to terrorists and, therefore, not a criminal offence.

He further argued that Murney was facing a type of 'hybrid charge' which was not envisaged by the legislation, and as such it was the defence case Murney was wrongly charged and therefore the case against him should be thrown out.

Mr Macdonald said the mistake was in looking at the reason why photographs are taken when deciding on whether the photograph in itself breaches the legislation.

However, the prosecution claimed this is not what the law was indeed saying, and that the defence were taking a far too narrow interpretation of the law in this regard.

Counsel further argued that the offences faced by Murney stood alone.

The lawyer also accepted a comment from Judge Philpott that "Mr Macdonald's interpretation is interesting, academic, and too narrow".

Both lawyers have been asked by the Deputy Recorder to supply written submissions on the matters for her consideration before ruling on the direction application next week.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Jim in Carrickfergus wrote (372 days ago):
Must be a hobby collecting pictures of the police
jase in ni wrote (372 days ago):
once again, the same old story, you could re-name the police 100 times over, give the psni 100 Gaelic teams, it couldnt be more better represented now than by what used to be a minority in its ranks, oh and not too mention vast amounts of personell from the free state!!! Get a life eirigi lol!!! you will never be happy will ya!! Oh and not too mention attacks on police by loyalists!! Wise up
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