Tuesday 17 September 2019

Newspaper editor granted injunction restraining gardai from inspecting phone as part of Strokestown investigation

The home in Strokestown, Roscommon
The home in Strokestown, Roscommon

Tim Healy

A provincial newspaper editor has been granted a High Court injunction restraining the gardai 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 gardai 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 that of his newspaper offices in the town.

He seeks orders that 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 an order quashing the search warrant and an order requiring the gardai and the DPP to deliver over to him all and any information/data accessed on the phone.

He seeks damages for breach of duty and interference with constitutional rights and economic activity.  

Mr Corcoran as well as being editor of the Demorat is a director of the company which publishes it, Oncor Ventures Ltd.

In an affidavit, he says gardai 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 gardai 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 gardai, 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 gardai he was protected by journalistic privilege and any attempt to seize his phone would be met with High Court proceedings.

He claims that 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.

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