JOURNALISTS who were unlawfully arrested over their documentary on the Loughinisland massacre have said they are alarmed by the findings of a PSNI review which strongly criticised the handling of their case.

The PSNI review, carried out by a senior barrister, questioned whether police should ever have investigated Trevor Birney originally from Fermanagh and Barry McCaffrey, who were arrested in August 2018 over their 2017 documentary, No Stone Unturned.

The arrests came after then PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton asked Durham Constabulary to investigate the potential theft or leaking of documents after a draft copy of a Police Ombudsman’s report into the 1994 Loughinisland atrocity was shown in the film.

The High Court in Belfast later found that the warrant issued for searches of the documentary makers’ homes and offices and the seizing of journalistic material was unlawful.

The investigation into the journalists was dropped with substantial damages paid to both men and a public apology by Chief Constable Simon Byrne.

A PSNI review, which looked at the major failures in the case and any lessons it raised, has never been published, despite being completed last spring.

However, a summary of the review was included in the Policing Board’s annual human rights report, published last week.

According to the report, the PSNI review questioned whether the journalists had committed any offences which justified a police investigation.

The board’s report said there “remain questions about the nature of the alleged crimes, particularly whether or not they were serious or not, and whether they justified any investigation, let alone the resources that were actually deployed”.

The PSNI review found police investigators were not properly objective and looked at minor issues in the case “through an overly suspicious lens”.

The review also found that investigators appeared not to properly challenge the PSNI’s view that the Loughinisland documentary posed a threat to life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr. McCaffrey described the report’s findings as “shocking” and said in any other police force they would have “led to a proper, public, independent inquiry”.

No Stone Unturned investigated the murders of six Catholic men – Adrian Rogan (34), Malcolm Jenkinson (53), Barney Green (87), Daniel McCreanor (59), Patrick O’Hare (35) and Eamon Byrne (39) – who were killed when the UVF opened fire on The Heights bar in Loughinisland, Co. Down, during a 1994 World Cup football match between the Republic of Ireland and Italy.

Mr. Birney said the PSNI report should be published in full.

“It is in the public interest that the PSNI is held accountable for its actions,” he said.

“Barry or myself cannot be surprised by anything that has been published so far, but we can really only make a full assessment when we see the full report and what actions have been taken as a result of the malicious farce we and our families were subjected to.

“It is in the public interest that the PSNI is held accountable for its actions.

“It was the PSNI who sent Durham Constabulary after us.

“We still don’t know why the PSNI decided to go after journalists instead of the men who killed six innocent Catholics in Loughinisland.”

In February 2021, the PSNI initiated its ‘lessons learned’ review arising from the case, which included reflections on the role of journalists and freedom of expression.

However, Mr. Birney and Mr. McCaffrey said they were never told that the review was completed last year, or what its findings were.

The Detail asked the PSNI why only a summary of the PSNI’s review was provided to the Policing Board.

Mr. Hamilton said: “There was detail in the report that ... would have been more specific to certain individuals.

“So there was a decision taken that rather than provide a redacted version to the whole board, a summary was provided.”

The Detail also asked the Policing Board and the PSNI why the journalists had not been kept informed about the progress of the review.

Neither had directly responded by the time of publication.