Robber fails in action against ‘Sunday World’

‘It is in the public interest that investigative journalism should not be impeded’

Belfast’s High Court. The court refused to grant Brendan Conway an injunction against the Sunday World. Mr Justice Gillen said: “It is in the public interest that investigative journalism should not be impeded where it is publishing legitimate information concerning serious criminal activity.”

Belfast’s High Court. The court refused to grant Brendan Conway an injunction against the Sunday World. Mr Justice Gillen said: “It is in the public interest that investigative journalism should not be impeded where it is publishing legitimate information concerning serious criminal activity.”

Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 01:06

A convicted robber failed yesterday in a legal attempt in Northern Ireland to have a newspaper banned from reporting his alleged links to murder and dissident republican terrorism.

The High Court in Belfast refused to grant Brendan Conway an injunction against the Sunday World . Mr Justice Gillen said: “It is in the public interest that investigative journalism should not be impeded where it is publishing legitimate information concerning serious criminal activity.”

Mr Conway ( 39), from north Belfast, claimed he had been vilified and harassed in sensationalist and false articles.


Alleged association
The Sunday World defended the proceedings by insisting that Mr Conway should be denied an injunction because of his alleged association with dissident republicans. Backed by the BBC, UTV and Belfast Telegraph , lawyers for the newspaper warned that imposing a ban on reporting his alleged activities would have a chilling effect on attempts to expose an underworld of drugs and murder.

Mr Justice Gillen rejected all grounds on which the injunction was sought, including harassment, right to privacy and malicious falsehood.

Despite being satisfied of a real and immediate risk to Mr Conway’s life, he found the threat was not due to the Sunday World focus on him. The judge listed other evidence of Mr Conway’s alleged close association with crime and leading dissident republicans. It included his conviction and imprisonment for a robbery closely associated to a £250,000 kidnapping plot, and a series of separate media reports and online blogs centred on him.

“The sad truth is that in the context of the situation in Northern Ireland, the plaintiff had put himself at real and immediate risk by the various activities described above,” Mr Justice Gillen said.

He acknowledged that the Sunday World pursued Mr Conway’s activities “with all the accusatory fervour of unflinching and unsparing investigative journalism”.


Freedom of expression
But, according to the judge, the intensity of the inquiry is often the lifeblood of the right to freedom of expression.

It was impossible to draw the conclusion that the threat to Mr Conway’s life originated in the Sunday World articles, the judge held.

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