Media to hand over riot footage (UTV)
News organisations, including UTV, must hand over footage of the riots in east Belfast last month to police – despite the perceived danger to staff, a judge has ruled.
A press photographer was shot in the leg during two nights of serious sectarian violence in the Short Stand/lower Newtownards Road interface area.
It has also since emerged that a television cameraman narrowly escaped injury and ended up with bullet holes in both legs of his trousers.
Judge Tom Burgess decided that the public interest in securing convictions outweighed any risk that may be posed to the press from releasing the untelevised material.
“What happened was scandalous, undoubtedly extremely frightening and of the utmost concern to those present on this occasion,” he said.
“But in the balancing exercise I am asked to consider, what weight do I place on the risk attached to handing over unbroadcast material – in circumstances where the ‘risk’ has been assessed by those who have that material as such as allowed for the broadcasting of some of the material?”
Lawyers for the police argued the footage would contain information of substantial value in identifying those allegedly involved in attempted murder, grievous bodily harm with intent, and rioting.
But the news organisations’ legal representatives contended the application was premature and a type of fishing expedition.
Arguments were also put forward regarding the rights of members of the press to protection when gathering and broadcasting information on the riots.
Judge Burgess acknowledged it was a difficult case because shots had been fired and a journalist injured, adding that he was concerned to ensure that a court order does not potentially put any lives at risk.
He concluded: “The interests of the public in the disclosure of this material must take precedence.”
The footage which is to be released must only be used for the prosecution of offences listed in the case and returned to the organisations once finished with.


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