A Newry man accused of publishing on his Facebook page photographs of police officers on duty told his trial today that he would learn how to blank out the faces of security force members in the future.
Stephen Murney (30) denies seven counts of publishing, collecting and possessing information likely to be of use to terrorists between August 2011 and July 2012.
The prosecution claim that the photographs were found on a computer together with two videos on an iphone following a police search of Murney’s Derrybeg Terrace home in November 2012.
Earlier in the hearing, Judge Corinne Philpott QC rejected a defence application to dismiss all charges against Murney, arguing he had no case to answer.
Giving evidence from the witness box, Murney told his defence counsel Barry McDonald QC, SC that he worked as a public relations officer (PRO) for the Newry branch of Eirigi.
“We are a responsible, non-violent, political party and we work towards a socialist republic,” Murney told the court.
“We do not support any armed group. We contest elections. Anyone who joins us must sign a declaration that they would not support violence.”
The father-of-one said it was his job as Eirigi’s Newry PRO to photograph events in the city relating to peaceful protests.
He told the trial judge that following the events, he would prepare press releases and post material on the Eirigi website and his Facebook page.
Asked by his counsel why he had the photographs and subsequently published them, Murney replied that it was to record the event and also highlight “any PSNI harassment”.
Judge Philpott QC asked Murney: “Could you have blanked out their faces?”
Murney replied: “I am not very good on the technical side of things. The technical side of things would not be my strong point.”
Judge Philpott QC: “Are you going to remain as a PRO?
Judge Philoptt: “Are you going to learn how to pixilate faces?”
The defendant added: “I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I didn’t think it would come to this.”
Dismissing the defence application that there was no case to answer, Judge Philpott QC said a number of photographs were taken of PSNI officers without their consent as the Olympic Torch passed through Newry City Centre on June 5, 2012 while they policed a protest in support of Republican prisoners and searches at Maghaberry prison.
Said the judge: “In the opinion of this court, the material found in this case could not be said to be innocuous.
“Nor is it material that would be expected to be collected or collated by ordinary members of the public or found in their possession.
“The fact that journalists or press photographers or some other group may have this material for a lawful purpose does not preclude it from falling within the category of material referred to in Section 58 (1) (a) and Section 58 (1) (b) of the Terrorism Act 2000.
“In this case the accused took the photographs, he knew he had them and that they gave facial identification of police officers.
“This material of its very nature would provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
“For these reasons I refuse the defence application for a direction in respect of counts 1, 5 and 7 (for collecting and possessing documents likely to be of use to terrorists).
“I am also satisfied that the information published is of its very nature designed to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
“The Court, having considered all relevant submissions made by both the defence and prosecution, has reached the conclusion that for an offence to be committed under Section 58 (1) (b), the prosecution do not have to prove that the material was elicited by the accused.
“The accused did in fact obtain the information in some cases without the knowledge of the police officers and in others, although they knew he was taking the photographs, it was done without their consent.
“I am therefore refusing the defence application for a direction in respect of counts 2,3,4, and 6 (publishing of communicating information likely to be of use to terrorists),” added the deputy Belfast Recorder.
The trial continues.