Breen told to justify actions over sources

Tuesday 12 May 2009 16.05
Suzanne Breen - Refusing to hand over material
Suzanne Breen - Refusing to hand over material

A judge in Belfast has said he is minded to grant a police order compelling a journalist to hand over information linked to recent articles about the Real IRA.

The PSNI is attempting to compel Sunday Tribune Northern Editor Suzanne Breen to hand over the material.

Belfast Recorder Tom Burgess told Ms Breen's defence team that it was now up to them to present him with legal argument that would change his initial opinion.

He also said that police evidence indicating that information held by her was relevant to the investigation would remain undisclosed to the court.

The judge said if facts relayed to him by the PSNI were made public, it could interfere with the live investigation into the murders of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azinkar outside a British army base in Antrim in March.

Ms Breen received a call from someone in the Real IRA claiming responsibility for the shootings.

She had been given seven days to comply to the PSNI request but refused saying her life could be in danger if she were to agree.

The Sunday Tribune journalist has received the backing of her newspaper and the National Union of Journalists.

As well as phone records relating to the claim, the police also want information connected to the interview the journalist carried out with a senior Real IRA representative.

In it, the dissident group admitted murdering Denis Donaldson, the senior Sinn Féin official who was exposed as an MI5 informer.

Mr Donaldson was shot dead more than three years ago at a Co Donegal hideaway where he had set up home after being unmasked.

Outside the court Suzanne Breen claimed it was a disgrace to be fighting a legal battle without knowing the details of the case against her.

'What are the police frightened of?' she asked.

'This case is making it very hard for myself and the Sunday Tribune to defend ourselves.'

Ms Breen emphasised her arguments would be based on the protection of sources, a journalist's right to confidentiality, and the risk to her life were she to comply with the police demands.