Police “rode rough-shod over the limited protection afforded to journalists”

The BBC report that Belfast High Court heard today that the PSNI have settled, out of court, in a legal action taken by The Times Northern Ireland editor Liam Clarke and journalist Kathryn Johnston, and agreed to pay their legal costs and “an unprecedented sum of damages”. The legal action came following the Police Ombudsman’s report into the police raid on Clarke and Johnston’s home after publication of their biography of Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness which included transcripts of telephone conversations between McGuinness and senior government officials. UpdatedThanks to “Sir Orde” in the comments, we have the following statements

Statement from Liam Clarke/Kathy Johnston

“This settlement follows serious criticism of the PSNI in the Police Ombudsman’s report which the Chief Constable accepted in its entirety. Mrs O’Loan’s report led to the disciplining of several officers, as well as recommending fundamental changes in police procedures.

This was a case where the police tore up the rule book and rode rough shod over the limited protection afforded to journalists and the press by law. The PSNI had no option but to settle this action on terms with which we are very satisfied as they faced humiliation in court. That is why they delayed this action so long.

We want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Paul Tweed and David Craig of Johnsons Solicitors, and barristers Brett Lockhart and David Ringland QC, who between them have achieved a landmark settlement in the face of years of obstruction and delay by the PSNI. We also want to thank the Police Ombudsman and her team for a painstaking and fair minded investigation. Our thanks also go to The Sunday Times and their legal manager, Alastair Brett, for their support and understanding throughout a very difficult period in our lives.”

Press Statement from Paul Tweed

“While it is regrettable that the PSNI have taken so long to settle this matter, my clients are nonetheless now very satisfied with the outcome, which involved what I believe may have been an unprecedented sum of damages for the circumstances of this category of case.

My clients hope that the stance they have taken and this result will provide some protection for any of their journalistic colleagues who may find themselves in similar circumstances.”