PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has issued an apology to journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey after the Court of Appeal quashed a search warrant used to raid their homes and offices last Friday (July 10).

In a statement issued today (July 16), Chief Constable Byrne said: "This morning I have written to both Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney offering them an unreserved apology for the distress and upset caused to them and their families following the execution of search warrants at their homes and business premises on August 31, 2018.

"While the searches were planned and conducted at the direction of officers from Durham Constabulary, those officers were acting on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland in an external capacity and I fully accept the ruling of the Lord Chief Justice that the search warrants were unlawful. The Police Service of Northern Ireland will be reviewing all findings of the judgment to ensure that all appropriate learning is taken.

"I have notified both Mr. McCaffrey and Mr. Birney’s legal representatives that I am keen to resolve all the outstanding matters through a process of mediation in order to bring this matter to a conclusion.

"Until these issues are resolved the Police Service of Northern Ireland will be making no further comment."

Mr. Birney, a former journalist for The Impartial Reporter, and Mr. McCaffrey were arrested over the alleged theft of a police watchdog document that appeared in their film No Stone Unturned on a notorious loyalist massacre in Loughinisland during the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Last year judges ruled search warrants used by police had been “inappropriate”. This resulted in the criminal probe into the journalists being discontinued.

On Friday (July 10) a panel of judges sitting in the Court of Appeal ruled the conduct of the hearing to obtain the search warrant fell “woefully short” of the standard required to ensure that the hearing was fair.

Mr. Birney's lawyers KRW Law issued a statement on the journalist's behalf stating that he "welcomes this morning’s unreserved apology".

The statement continued: "He is however conscious that actions speak louder than words and look forward to the words being met with decisive reparative action in the upcoming mediation between the parties, a matter which the Chief Constable personally referenced in the apology.

 "There remains serious issues to be addressed in relation to the PSNI’s illegal retention of massive swathes of Mr Birney’s data, his unlawful arrest, wrongful detention and the impact it has had on his business.

 "He is determined that the PSNI and Durham officers who instigated and overseen his unlawful arrest and detention are held to account.

 "In meantime, he looks forward positively to the mediation to hopefully conclude this sorry episode in the days ahead."