Police photo publisher to 'blank faces'

Published Monday, 27 January 2014
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A Newry man accused of publishing photographs of on duty police officers on his Facebook page, has told a trial he would learn how to blank out the faces of security force members in the future.

Police photo publisher to 'blank faces'
Murney's supporters protest at the St Patrick''s Day parade in Newry last year. (© UTV)

Stephen Murney, 30, denies seven counts of publishing, collecting and possessing information likely to be of use to terrorists between August 2011 and July 2012.

The prosecution claim that the photographs were found on a computer together with two videos on an iPhone following a police search of Murney's Derrybeg Terrace home in November 2012.

Earlier in the hearing, Judge Corinne Philpott QC rejected a defence application to dismiss all charges against Murney, arguing he had no case to answer.

Giving evidence from the witness box, Murney told his defence counsel Barry McDonald QC that he worked as a public relations officer (PRO) for the Newry branch of Eirigi.

"We are a responsible, non-violent, political party and we work towards a socialist republic," Murney told the court.

"We do not support any armed group. We contest elections. Anyone who joins us must sign a declaration that they would not support violence."

The father-of-one said it was his job as Eirigi's Newry PRO to photograph events in the city relating to peaceful protests.

He told the trial judge that following the events, he would prepare press releases and post material on the Eirigi website and his Facebook page.

Asked by his counsel why he had the photographs and subsequently published them, Murney replied that it was to record the event and also highlight "any PSNI harassment".

Judge Philpott QC asked Murney: "Could you have blanked out their faces?"

Murney replied: "I am not very good on the technical side of things. The technical side of things would not be my strong point."

When Murney told the judge he intended to remain as a PRO, he was asked:"Are you going to learn how to pixilate faces?"

Murney responded that he would.

The defendant added: "I didn't think I was doing anything wrong. I didn't think it would come to this."

Dismissing the defence application that there was no case to answer, Judge Philpott QC said a number of photographs were taken of PSNI officers without their consent as the Olympic Torch passed through Newry City Centre on 5 June 2012 while they policed a protest in support of republican prisoners and searches at Maghaberry prison.

"In the opinion of this court, the material found in this case could not be said to be innocuous," the judge said.

"Nor is it material that would be expected to be collected or collated by ordinary members of the public or found in their possession.

"The fact that journalists or press photographers or some other group may have this material for a lawful purpose does not preclude it from falling within the category of material referred to in Section 58 (1) (a) and Section 58 (1) (b) of the Terrorism Act 2000."

The judge continued: "In this case the accused took the photographs, he knew he had them and that they gave facial identification of police officers.

"This material of its very nature would provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Judge Philpott said that for those reasons, she refused the defence application for a direction in respect of counts 1, 5 and 7 (for collecting and possessing documents likely to be of use to terrorists).

She added: "I am also satisfied that the information published is of its very nature designed to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."

She said that the court, "having considered all relevant submissions made by both the defence and prosecution, has reached the conclusion that for an offence to be committed under Section 58 (1) (b), the prosecution do not have to prove that the material was elicited by the accused".

"The accused did in fact obtain the information in some cases without the knowledge of the police officers and in others, although they knew he was taking the photographs, it was done without their consent," the judge added.

"I am therefore refusing the defence application for a direction in respect of counts 2, 3, 4, and 6 (publishing of communicating information likely to be of use to terrorists)," added the deputy Belfast Recorder.

The trial continues.

© UTV News
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2 Comments
Taxi Paul in Belfast wrote (178 days ago):
This is dangerous In this case questions might be asked about what pictures this man had and why he had them. However what happens when the police who do abuse their powers then use the terrorism act to suppress evidence. Surely every citizen has a right to take photgraphs of noteworthy events. My opinion is there can be no restriction of photography in Public places. I don't believe possessing the photos is enough, it must be proved that there was intent to use these photos for a malicious or terrorist purpose. It is unfortunate that because of the actions of a few we have good reason to fear the police and may well have a need to video or photograph them. Hillsborough, Orgreave (miners strike, Ian tomlinson, and thousands of other incidents. Sad fact is that after the Plebegate affair the word of a police officer is worth nothing. Recording them should be encouraged. They shoud be made to wear cameras on their hats and all poice cars should have cameras fitted. If the police have nothing to hide why would that be a problem?
James in Comber wrote (178 days ago):
All tarred to the one stick. Lock him up. This guy putting officers in danger.
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