Court restrains gardaí from examining editor’s seized phone

Journalist who recorded Strokestown incident also seeking judicial review of search warrant

The scene at a house outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon last December after the attempted repossession took place. Photograph: Brian Farrell

The scene at a house outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon last December after the attempted repossession took place. Photograph: Brian Farrell

 

A provincial newspaper editor has been granted a High Court injunction restraining gardaí from going through information on his mobile phone as part of an investigation into last December’s incidents at a repossessed house in Strokestown, Co Roscommon.

Emmett Corcoran, editor of the Democrat, based in Strokestown and circulating in Roscommon, Longford and Leitrim, was granted the interim injunction until Friday morning by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan.

He said his phone was seized after he refused to identify sources to gardaí, having been one of the first people on the scene of the Strokestown repossession incident when a number of vehicles were set on fire. He arrived before the fire brigade and recorded video footage which he says has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times online.

Mr Justice Noonan also granted his counsel, Morgan Shelley BL, leave to seek judicial review of a search warrant granted by District Judge James Faughnan to search Mr Corcoran’s home in Strokestown and his newspaper offices in the town.

Mr Corcoran wants orders directing the phone be returned and a prohibition on anyone attempting to access information on the phone pending determination of the High Court proceedings. He further seeks orders quashing the search warrant and requiring the gardaí and the Director of Public Prosecutions to deliver over to him all and any information/data accessed on the phone.

He is also seeking damages for alleged breach of duty and interference with constitutional rights and economic activity. Mr Corcoran as well as being editor of the Democrat is a director of the company which publishes it, Oncor Ventures Ltd.

In an affidavit, he said gardaí arrived at his grandparents home on Thursday morning thinking he lived there but in fact he lives on the same street. When they went to his home, he initially refused to hand over the phone, asserting journalistic privilege. When gardaí said they would search his home, his grandparents home and his office, and arrest him if he did not permit the search, he said he felt he had no choice but to hand over the phone.

He said he had already attended Roscommon Garda Station, at the invitation of gardaí, last December when he refused to identify his source in relation to how he heard about the fire. He provided all photos and video he had taken. He was accompanied by his solicitor who made it clear to the gardaí he was protected by journalistic privilege and any attempt to seize his phone would be met with High Court proceedings.

He claims, as well as being at the loss of private family and journalistic information, the loss of the phone has been considerable difficulty including financial loss and expense. The application for judicial review was made on a one side only represented (ex parte) basis. The case comes back on Friday.