The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
A Jackboot on my Press Card
If you want a Big Brother, you get all that comes with it
- Erich Fromm
Anthony McIntyre • Fortnight, August 2003

Police invasion of our home is an event I have experienced many times over the years. Invariably they employ one terrorism act or another as a means of legal cover. These acts give the police a lot of power and those being searched a lot of hassle with little means of redress. Since my release from prison in the early 1990s my home has been searched on five occasions. On average that is once every two years. Before I went to prison it was searched too many times to remember exactly. Although there was one period in 1974 when it was raided five times in two weeks.

The logic of harassment that governs state invasions of private homes is evident in the fact that despite all these searches I have never faced court proceedings as a result of anything found in my home. Rarely has anything been seized.

I suppose I have always been on the receiving end of such measures because of my life as a republican activist. While disliking house searches they are something I have grown used to, waxing philosophical about them rather than complaining. People who are politically at odds with the state always expect to be squeezed by its forces.

The last raid on my home was different. I was targeted on the 4th of July because I was a writer, not a republican activist. Two days earlier I had covered a protest staged by a republican prisoner support group at Dundonald House. I was not a protestor. Ostensibly, the object of the PSNI search was ‘to locate and recover documentation in relation to the Prison Service, cameras, digital cameras, photographs, records held on computer sought in connection with and likely to be of substantial value to their terrorist investigations.’ The police seized this and more - an electronic organiser and mobile phones. The search was carried out under the auspices of the Terrorism Act 2000. The signature of a Justice of the Peace was all that was required to authorise the search. He assented - has he ever done anything else?

My solicitor immediately moved to inform the PSNI of what they knew already - I was a journalist and they had abused their powers by seizing my equipment which comes under ‘excluded material’. This is a legal concept aimed at preventing the police going on a mere fishing expedition. Faced with the threat of legal action the PSNI next arrived at my door on the 17th of July. This time they came with their powers clearly circumscribed. Rather than being able to invade my home they arrived armed with an order from a Crown Court judge instructing me to hand over my equipment within seven days. It was then explained to me that because they already had the equipment they would not be taking any further action to acquire it. How considerate of them! At the same time they delivered a similar order to UTV seeking their film footage of the Dundonald House protest.

Two weeks later virtually all my equipment was returned. The remainder is on its way. What all of this amounts to is that the PSNI used the widest possible terrorist legislation to target a journalist. It meant that they felt free to dispense with the more restrictive legislation that applies to excluded material, opting instead for that which contains the ‘do what we want’ clause. Only when confronted with the possibility of legal action did they move to use the legal route they should have went down to begin with. And then they disingeniously sought to use a Crown Court order to retrospectively justify search and seizure. How they managed to dupe a Crown Court judge into ordering material to be handed over within 7 days when they had the same material in their possession for thirteen days, is a matter of grave concern. Does the bench in the North intend to continue in its time honoured role as the mere instrument of the police, providing cover for improper if not illegal behaviour? Is it prepared to give the police rather than the NUJ the power to determine who is a journalist?

It is crucial to an informed public mindset that the journalists - to whom that public talks often in confidence - are not targeted by political policing, leading to the erosion of that confidence principle. Otherwise, the only legitimate gatherers of public information would be the police and that would edge us dangerously close to becoming a police state.




 

 

 

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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.
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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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