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A report presented to the Policing Board of Northern Ireland (PSNI) on Thursday 6 June revealed that 323 applications for journalists’ phone data including 10 attempts to identify confidential sources had been made by the PSNI. In addition, 500 applications were reported in relation to applications for phone data held by lawyers.

It was presented against the backdrop of revelations at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal into the surveillance of investigative journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney reported last month and the 3 June announcement (reported below) by the chief constable Jon Boutcher of the appointment of  a King’s Counsel investigation, the McCullough Review, into the use of surveillance powers.

Séamus Dooley, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) assistant general secretary, has been appointed to a group of experts and stakeholders which will advise Angus McCullough KC has expressed alarm at the revelations.

Commenting on the report Dooley said:

“The NUJ has grave concern at the scale and extent of the surveillance revealed yesterday.  The report raises fundamental questions about how the PSNI view journalists and the official perspective of the role and function of journalists in a democratic society.

“The NUJ, Amnesty International and the Committee for the Administration of Justice have been to the fore in highlighting concerns at the use of surveillance powers, covert and non-covert to track the work of journalists and to undermine journalistic sources. Police accessing journalists’ communications data for the explicit purpose of identifying confidential sources is unacceptable and we do not accept the attempt to reframe ten incidents which were unambiguously for the purpose of identifying their confidential sources on ten occasions…”

The full statement can be read at:

Earlier on 3 June the PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher issued a statement critical of the commentary about the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and announced the setting up of the McCullough Review: