Blair welcomes confirmation Durham police chief will appear at Policing Board over journalist arrests

Alliance MLA John Blair has welcomed confirmation the Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary is willing to attend a meeting of the Policing Board to answer questions around the arrest of two journalists in relation to alleged theft of documents from the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

Following a question at today’s Policing Board meeting from Mr Blair, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said Michael Barton of Durham Constabulary would make himself “answerable for his actions” following the arrests of Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney last August. The two men were part of the team which produced No Stone Unturned, a documentary covering the Loughinisland massacre.

“The Policing Board should be able to scrutinise all policing actions carried out in Northern Ireland. The PSNI outsourced the investigation of this matter to the Durham Constabulary, which subsequently resulted in the arrest, questioning and release of these two journalists,” said Mr Blair.

“It raised several significant public interest issues, one of which was how can a police service from another jurisdiction, albeit one operating at the PSNI’s request, be held accountable for its actions.

“I am pleased Chief Constable George Hamilton took on board my concerns at today’s meeting and confirmed Chief Constable Michael Barton is prepared to come to this board, and be answerable for the actions of himself and his police service.

“It is clear questions around the arrest of these two journalists need asked and I welcome the Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary agreeing to appear to answer those questions. Accountability is crucial to everyone in the community having confidence in policing.”
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