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Editor and wife won't face charges over leaked calls

THURSDAY 07/10/2004 15:22:14

A newspaper editor and wife team are not to face charges over leaked phone calls which embarassed Downing Street.

Liam Clarke, Northern Ireland editor of the Sunday Times, and Kathryn Johnston have been told that the DPP has directed they should not be prosecuted over an alleged breach of the Official Secrets Act.

Transcripts of leaked calls, including conversations between Sinn Fein`s Martin McGuinness and Jonathan Powell, the British Prime Minister`s Chief of Staff, were published in a biography of Mr McGuinness written by Mr Clarke and his wife.

In a statement released through their solicitors Johnsons, the couple said: "The DPP`s decision comes as no surprise.

"However, we are most suprised to note that although there has been a decision not to prosecute us, charges are still outstanding in respect of a retired police officer.

"We are bewildered that this situation continues in the circumstances."

In the High Court last September, the PSNI admitted that a police raid at the Belfast office of the Sunday Times was unlawful.

The family home in Ballymena was also raided under the Official Secrets Act and sacks of documents and computers were seized during a five-hour search.

The couple`s nine year-old daughter Alice had to be left in the care of neighbours while they were held and questioned for 24 hours.

A complaint was lodged with the Police Ombudsman`s office which carried out an investigation.

It led to Ombudsman, Nuala O`Loan, recommending that several officers be disciplined over the raid which she described as "poorly led and unprofessional."

Mrs O`Loan said police officers had breached basic legal procedures giving protection to journalists from state harassment and had illegally restricted the movements of the Clarkes during the search.

In their response, the PSNI said it was "examining" the Ombudsman`s report and added that changes implemented since the raid at the Clarke`s home meant that a repetition of some of the "issues highlighted" would not arise again.

Paul Tweed, media partner in Johnsons, confirmed that Mr Clarke and his wife are pursuing a compensation claim against the police.

"Legal proceedings have already been issued and we will be continuing to vigorously prosecute our clients` claim for damages against the Chief Constable," he said.

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