A judge has ordered An Garda Síochána to pay the legal costs of the editor of a Roscommon newspaper whose mobile phone was taken which subsequently led to a High Court application seeking to stop gardaí from accessing messages on it.
In a new judgement today, Mr Justice Garrett Simon also granted an injunction in order for the contents of a mobile phone belonging to Emmett Corcoran, the editor of the Strokestown Democrat to be deleted from the computer system in Garda Headquarters after it was discovered that it is not possible to download some of its content.
Mr Corcoran along with the owners of the paper, brought legal proceedings challenging the seizure of his mobile phone by gardaí investigating events at a farmhouse at Falsk, near Strokestown on 16 December 2018.
Several people are facing criminal charges as a result of the incident.
Mr Corcoran said he had attended the scene as a journalist, following a tip off. He recorded some footage and took photographs.
He made these available to gardaí but refused to hand over his mobile, to protect his sources. Several months later, gardaí obtained a search warrant, searched his home and workplace and seized the phone.
Mr Corcoran did not give them the password to the phone and gardaí agreed not to access it pending the outcome of these proceedings.
In September, the High Court ruled that Mr Corcoran was not entitled to refuse to disclose the contents of his mobile phone to gardaí investigating the events surrounding an eviction in the county almost two years ago.
At the time Mr Justice Garrett Simon said gardaí wanted to carry out a very limited examination of the mobile telephone, confined to a specified period of time shortly before and after the events.
But today Mr Justice Simons said given the process of examining the mobile telephone is more involved than had been appreciated at the time the principal judgment was delivered, it is necessary to revise the proposed order.
He added that the proceedings "raise important issues of principle in relation to freedom of expression, and, in particular, the protection of journalistic sources".
He said the downloaded version of the mobile telephone's full file system will next be deleted from the computer system in Garda Headquarters, with the consequence that the only data retained by An Garda Síochána will be that on the encrypted drive.
Mr Justice Simons also proposed that An Garda Síochána will retain the mobile telephone device itself; presumably this is because it may be necessary to produce the device as evidence in the pending criminal proceedings.
He said the device is to be held by the Chief Superintendent.
Mr Justice Simons said there will also be an order directing An Garda Síochána to pay the applicants' costs of the proceedings.
The costs are to include the leave application; the three-day hearing in July 2020; two sets of written legal submissions; and all reserved costs.
The costs are for solicitor and two counsel.