The NUJ has warned that a change to the law could give the police ‘unrestricted powers’to seize documents and files from journalists in Northern Ireland.
Under a new law undergoing public consultation, police will be able to seize documents and emails for up to 96 hours.
A draft version of the Policing Miscellaneous Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 2007 states that: ‘We are proposing provisions for the police to examine documents and electronic records in order to establish whether or not they contain evidence that someone has committed or is preparing to commit serious crime.’Under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 police cannot seize a document unless they have ‘reasonable suspicion that it is evidence and its retention is necessary”.
The draft of the new law said: ‘This power is necessary because of the increasingly sophisticated nature of serious crime.’NUJ Irish secretary SÃ©amus Dooley said: ‘It would not be acceptable to grant powers of seizure which take no account of the level of suspicion.
‘There must be an onus on the security forces not just to obtain a lawful warrant but also to justify the need for seizure.’The legislation’s consultation period ends on 22 January.