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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Investigatory Powers Tribunal breaks new ground

Press release
Release date: 12 August 2016

Investigatory Powers Tribunal breaks new ground

The Chartered Institute of Journalists says the Investigatory Powers Tribunal has broken new ground in awarding substantial damages to a Scottish investigative journalist after Police Scotland had unlawfully obtained his phone records to discover the identity of his sources.

The award of £10,000 to former police officer Gerard Gallacher is the first time any British court/tribunal has compensated a UK journalist for jeopardising the protection of his sources by intercepting his communications data.

Police Scotland failed to comply with a legal duty to seek the permission of a judge.

Its detectives were investigating the source of three articles published in April 2015 by the Sunday Mail newspaper about the failed murder inquiry into the death of 27-year-old Emma Caldwell in 2005.

The CIoJ is the world’s longest standing professional association of journalists.

The Institute’s senior representative in Scotland, Campbell Thomas, said: “It’s very welcome that the pendulum in protecting journalists’ sources is now swinging back. It’s a very significant outcome.”

Mr Thomas said that the Tribunal sitting in Edinburgh had ruled that obtaining the communications data was unlawful and breaches of  Articles 8 (privacy) and 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Justice Burton said in his ruling: “Mr Gallacher was a persuasive advocate before us, and put before us orally and in writing his case as to the invasion of privacy, familial strife, personal stress and strain and loss of long-standing friendships which he alleged to result from the Respondents’ (Police Scotland) unlawful acts.”

The Tribunal said the compensation was necessary because the actions of Police Scotland had led to “a stultification of earning potential”.