Eirigi press officer cleared over photographs of PSNI officers

Stephen Murney (left) was acquitted of terrorism charges.
Stephen Murney (left) was acquitted of terrorism charges.

Eirigi press officer Stephen Murney yesterday said he spent 14 months in custody “for nothing” after he was acquitted of a series of terrorist charges.

Mr Murney, 30, from Derrybeg Terrace in Newry, stood trial earlier this year on seven counts of publishing, collecting and possessing information likely to be of use to terrorists between August 2011 and July 2012.

He was accused of publishing on his Facebook page photographs of police officers on duty.

During the Diplock, non-jury trial held at Belfast Crown Court, the prosecution said the photographs were found on a computer, together with two videos on an iPhone, during a police search of his home in November 2012.

Mr Murney took photographs of police officers in June 2012 as the Olympic torch passed through the city.

He also published photographs in August 2011 and July 2012 of himself being stopped and searched by police, as well as collecting and making a record of the policing of a Twelfth parade in Newry.

Giving evidence at his trial, Mr Murney denied the photographs and videos were for terrorist purposes, stating he had them to report what was going on, in his role as press officer.

When asked about the images of him being stopped and searched, Mr Murney made the case that he was recording the incidents to show others as he believed he was being harassed by the PSNI.

Speaking outside court yesterday, Mr Murney thanked his legal team, described his period in custody as “internment on remand”, and vowed to continue his work as a press officer with eirigi.

A statement issued on behalf of Mr Murney said: “My imprisonment for the past 14 months was as a direct result of my political views and my membership of eirigi – an open and legitimate

political party.

“Those charges, of which I have been found to be innocent, were brought against me by the PSNI, who objected to the fact that I recorded, documented and publicised PSNI personnel abusing the human and civil rights of citizens in the Newry area.”

In her ruling, Judge Corrinne Philpott said: “There is no evidence before this court that eirigi supports violence, or has argued for violent action to be taken against the police, or that the organisation is directly linked to those that support terrorist activity.”

She said: “The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused possessed information likely to be of use to terrorists and that he had no reasonable excuse for his actions.

“In the view of this court, the prosecution have not discharged that burden to the requisite standard, that is beyond reasonable doubt, and therefore the accused is entitled to an acquittal on all counts.”

As the judge made her final remark, family, friends and supporters of Stephen Murney clapped in the public gallery.