Another Win for Freedom of the Press, we Hope? Another Defeat for Drew Harris, and we will wait and see what Harris will do next?

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Gardai ordered to pay costs of Roscommon journalist’s challenge to seizure of mobile phone

5th January 2021

A judge has ordered Gardai to pay the costs of a Roscommon journalist whose mobile phone was seized by Gardai and who subsequently brought a case against officers accessing information on it.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons said the legal action initiated by Emmett Corcoran highlighted important issues around the protection of journalists’ sources.

Mr Corcoran challenged the seizure of his mobile phone by gardaí investigating events at a farmhouse at Falsk, Strokestown on 16th December 2018.

He had offered to hand over footage and photos he had taken at the scene, but not his mobile phone, in order to protect his sources.

However, his device was subsequently seized by Gardai under warrant and a previous court sitting heard that gardaí agreed not to access the phone until the conclusion of these proceedings.

Last September the High Court ruled that Mr Corcoran could not refuse to disclose the information contained on the mobile phone and that a very limited examination of the phone could take place.

In the written judgment, the judge has now revealed that the phone must be examined in full and it is not possible to examine just a limited period and the proposed order needs to be revised.

He outlined that any examination of the phone will be limited to the 11th to the 17th of December but will not include contact details saved on the phone.

A Chief Superintendent is to be appointed to retain possession of the device and the phone will be held as evidence by Gardai pending the trial of five men charged in connection with the alleged violent incident at the farmhouse in December 2018.

Their trial is scheduled to begin in May 2022.

The judge also said that the proceedings were the first “in which the question of the seizure of a journalist’s mobile telephone in the context of ongoing criminal investigations has been addressed in a written judgment of the High Court.”

The court directed An Garda Síochána to pay Mr Corcoran’s costs and granted a stay pending an appeal by either side.

The full written judgment can be accessed here:

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