PSNI Chief Refutes Allegations of Exploiting Surveillance Powers for Journalists’ Surveillance

The head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Jon Boutcher, has reassured a policing watchdog that surveillance powers have not been used to monitor NGOs, journalists, or lawyers. This comes after human rights groups raised concerns about the PSNI’s use of surveillance powers to gather data from journalists’ phones. The PSNI has been requested to provide information on the covert surveillance of journalists in Northern Ireland, but has failed to do so for over six months. Boutcher has committed to providing a report on police surveillance applications and authorizations related to journalists and lawyers within four weeks. He also mentioned that the independent regulator, the Investigatory Powers Commissioners Office, has not found any concerns regarding the acquisition of journalists’ communications data by the PSNI in inspection reports. If the PSNI does not provide a satisfactory response, the Policing Board may exercise its formal powers under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. Amnesty International and the Committee on the Administration of Justice cautiously welcome Boutcher’s commitment to providing answers and expressing concerns about a wider pattern of police surveillance.

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