‘Media clampdown’ at Belfast courts – no parking, no data, no tweeting

media vehicle clamped across the road from Belfast courtsTraditionally, broadcast crews covering cases in Belfast courts park their vehicles on the other side of the road underneath the banners advertising the next big event in the Waterfront Hall. Unlike the nearby car parks, their chosen parking spot is free and has line of sight across to the court railings, allowing journalists to ‘go live’ on the lunchtime news with wireless cameras and mics.

Any other car or van parked around Lanyon Place would be quickly targeted by the private clamping firm employed by the Lanyon Place Management Company. Until today, when three media vehicles – none of which seemed to be liveried – were clamped!

media vehicle being unclamped across the road from Belfast courtsAffected journalists were cross. Very cross. Though probably not as cross as they would have been if their vehicles had been lifted up onto the back of a towtruck!

PEA later arrived to unclamp the cars. However, it’s not clear whether money changed hands, or whether the media will continue to be a permitted exception to the byelaws in that area. Update – from Mark Simpson’s late evening tweet, it looks like the fines had to be paid. Getting that through expenses will be fun.

@BBCMarkSimpson: A Day in Glamorous World of Journalism: car clamped, court case delayed, 3hr wait, case starts, fine paid, car released, report filed, bed.

Inside the courts, two men accused of the murder Constable Stephen Carroll were standing trial. Brendan McConville (a former Sinn Fein councillor) and John Paul Wootton deny the charges. Wooton’s mother – Sharon Wootton – is also in court, accused of perverting the course of justice in relation to the subsequent police investigation of the shooting. She denies this charge.

In the Guardian, Henry McDonald reports:

Turning to Wootton’s alleged involvement, the barrister told the court that an army surveillance device had been fitted to the defendant’s car in the period prior to the shooting. He said data obtained from the tracker placed his car about 240 metres from Carroll’s silver Skoda police car when he was shot.

The device detected the gold-coloured Saxo driving off 10 minutes after the fatal bullet was fired, the lawyer added. He said while the information had been downloaded from the tracker, the raw data on the device’s hard drive had since been inadvertently deleted.

Details of the tracker and how its data about the movements of the car in the three hours after the attack came to be removed and later restored will no doubt feature in cross-examination and evidence in the weeks to come.

Lastly I’d note that unlike some recent cases in Northern Ireland – and unlike the new policy in Englandjournalists don’t have permission to tweet from this court room – “by order of Lord Chief Justice office“.

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  • The Media is not the fourth emergency service and is not entitled to free parking where others arent.
    “Tweeting” in court is downright bad manners. And undermines the dignity of the occasion.

  • sherdy

    ‘The raw data on he device’s hard drive had since been inadvertently deleted’. Does this mean that the chain of custody has been broken, or does it mean the defence experts cannot verify its authentication?

  • Sherdy – let’s wait and see what happens in court.

  • Comrade Stalin

    or does it mean the defence experts cannot verify its authentication?

    It would surprise me if there was any authentication on the thing to start with. But it surprises me more that there aren’t basic security features to prevent accidental deletion.

  • Munsterview

    CS : “….It would surprise me if there was any authentication on the thing to start with. But it surprises me more that there aren’t basic security features to prevent accidental deletion.
    …..”

    Or could it be a psychological exercise in having active and potential enemies believe that anyone targeted by the securecrats cannot fart without they knowing about it?

    If technical skills and technology exist to plot the movement of a targated vehicle via a sat-light 22,000 miles out in space, are we to believe that the same users of this technology are so deficient in basics that they cannot retrieve data from a crashed hard disk or do a simple back up…..the latter an elementary lesson that all computer users either employ or learn to their peril ?

  • ayeYerMa

    Twitter is for twits and twats. It should be banned completely.

  • cynic2

    “Or could it be a psychological exercise in having active and potential enemies believe that anyone targeted by the securecrats cannot fart without they knowing about it?”

    Great idea. Lets come to court in a really high profile trial and lie about it alleging a major cockup on our part. Paranoia at its fnest

  • cynic2

    Given the state of ots last accounts PEA needs every penny it can get from the clamps.

    Its a reputable firm from Dublin but who runs the Belfast franchise?

  • Comrade Stalin

    MV:

    Or could it be a psychological exercise in having active and potential enemies believe that anyone targeted by the securecrats cannot fart without they knowing about it?

    May well be, indeed.

    If technical skills and technology exist to plot the movement of a targated vehicle via a sat-light 22,000 miles out in space,

    This is, these days, a trivial piece of functionality. GPS is built into every smartphone and satnav. The little modules that do it cost a few pounds and are easily integrated into any device.

    are we to believe that the same users of this technology are so deficient in basics that they cannot retrieve data from a crashed hard disk

    They did not say the hard disk was crashed, just that the data had been “inadvertently deleted”.

    Avoiding accidental deletion is something that should be part of the design.

    Recovering the data following an accidental or deliberate deletion would depend on what had been done with the device after the deletion took place. If additional data was written to it since the deletion, recovery becomes a lot harder. If the deletion function on the device performed a “secure delete” – this is quite likely given the people who deployed the device – recovery following accidental deletion would be impossible.

    It’s commonplace these days to have snapshot mechanisms (ZFS, BTRFS; or LVM on Linux) which can lock in the state of the stored data so that it is not “really” deleted.

    or do a simple back up

    It may well be that they thought all of the data had been extracted from the device and stored (ie, a backup) before they deleted it, and then discovered that it had not been.

    This sounds a lot like incompetence to me – evidence is being lost. It’s up there with evidence being lost down the back of a desk drawer.

    …..the latter an elementary lesson that all computer users either employ or learn to their peril ?

    Backups aren’t effective unless there is a proper, automated backup process, which is audited;