The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Letter to the Chief Constable, Hugh Orde from British Irish Rights Watch
7th August 2003

Hugh Orde
Chief Constable
PSNI Headquarters
Knock Road

7th August 2003

for the personal attention of the Chief Constable

Dear Hugh,


We have been consulted by Anthony McIntyre, a journalist, who tells us that the PSNI raided his home on 4th July 2003. We have a number of concerns about the reasons for and the nature of the raid.

We understand that on 2nd July 2003 a number of protesters entered Dundonald House, the headquarters of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, during a protest in support of dissident prisoners at HMP Maghaberry who are campaigning for segregation within the jail. During this occupation, RIRA sympathisers stole a document. They passed this document to a journalist, and told him that they would use the document to target people mentioned in the document. On 3rd July UTV made reference to this matter in a news bulletin. The journalist in question was, we understand, telephoned on his mobile by the PSNI and asked to hand in the document at a police station, which he did. When he did so, he was told he would be asked to make a statement at a later date, but so far this has not happened.

Anthony McIntyre was covering the demonstration at Dundonald House in his capacity as a journalist. In that capacity, he entered Dundonald House, and introduced himself to a Prison Service employee called Malcom Beattie, to whom he showed his press card. Mr Beattie asked Anthony McIntyre to leave and he did so.

Mr McIntyre tells us that at no time was he in possession of the document stolen by others.

On 4th July Anthony McIntyre's home was raided by the PSNI. Neighbours have told him that 33 police landrovers were involved in the raid. By all accounts the republican estate on which he lives was saturated.

At the time of the raid he was shown a magistrate's search warrant, dated 4th July 2003, which authorised the seizure of "documentation in relation to the Prison Service, camera, digital camera, photographs, records held on computer". In fact other items were also seized, including a diary belonging to his partner, mobile telephones, and an electronic organiser. On 17th July 2003, thirteen days after the raid, the PSNI obtained an Order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, ordering Anthony McIntyre to produce to the police all the items already taken from his home on 4th July, even though by then the police had had ample time to examine what had been seized and must have known that none of the items were connected to terrorism.

As you will be aware, Anthony McIntyre has a conviction for murder and was released from prison in 1993. Since then, as we have no doubt your intelligence system is well aware, he has had no connection with terrorism. Instead he has carved out a career for himself as a journalist and commentator. His views and sympathies are well known and are a matter of public record.

We find it difficult to envisage any other reason for the difference in the way that the PSNI treated the two journalists concerned than that Anthony McIntyre's previous conviction prejudiced the PSNI against him and was thought by them to justify an unnecessarily heavy-handed approach. We are concerned that by approaching this matter in this way, the PSNI has made it difficult for Anthony McIntyre to pursue his legitimate career as a journalist, and that, following on as it does from the oppressive raid on journalists Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston it will have a chilling effect on investigative journalism in Northern Ireland.

The obtaining of an otiose Order under the PTA, retrospectively, can only be interpreted as a cynical attempt at window-dressing that brings the PSNI into disrepute.

In the interests of transparency and accountability, we hope that you will answer the following questions:

  1. Which agency authorised the arrests raid?
  2. Which person authorised them?
  3. If you did not authorise the arrests raid yourself, what input, if any, did you have to the decision to make the arrests raid and/or the manner in which it was made?
  4. Why was it decided to send armed officers to the house?
  5. How many police officers were involved in the operation altogether?
  6. What did the operation cost?
  7. Why was it decided to depart from the previous practice of voluntary interviews of journalists by appointment with their solicitors?
  8. Why were production orders not used before ordering a search?
  9. Why was Anthony McIntyre treated so differently from the other journalist involved?
  10. Why was so much irrelevant material taken from the journalists' home?
  11. When will those items that have been retained be returned to the journalist?
  12. While all the material seized was in the custody of the PSNI, was any of it copied, imaged or scanned or otherwise recorded?
  13. Did the PSNI release the seized material, or any copies of the material to any other agency and if so which agency?
  14. Can you confirm that all copies of data from the computers, any retained documents and any photocopied documents will either be returned to the journalists or destroyed in their presence or that of their representatives unless used in evidence in court?

Since past experience suggests that you will decline to answer these reasons on "operational" grounds, we are copying this letter to Policing Board and to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.

Yours sincerely,

Jane Winter,
British Irish Rights Watch.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

16 September 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


In The Shadow of Fear
Anthony McIntyre


Derry's Disappeared
Deaglán Ó Donghaile


Bangers on the Blanket?
Kathleen O Halloran


Dialectics of Terror
M Shaid Alam


Prison Segregation
Republican Prisoners Support Network


Letter to the Chief Constable
British Irish Rights Watch


A Jackboot on my Presscard
Anthony McIntyre


The Letters Page has been updated.


11 September 2003


Seconds Out for Round Thirteen
Eamon Sweeney


UN Report on Human Development
Liam O Ruairc


No Sign Yet of an End to the Cold War
Anthony McIntyre


West Belfast - The Politics of Childhood
Davy Carlin


Review of Eoin O'Broin's Matxinada
Douglas Hamilton


Help Renew the Republican Dream
Gerry Ruddy


Three Meeting Announcements
Belfast & Dublin




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