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Crime reporter denounces police failure to investigate rape threats to her baby

Posted on: October 14, 2020 by Mariella Brown

A Northern Ireland journalist has lodged an official complaint over what she says is a police failure to investigate a threat to rape her new-born son.

Patricia Devlin, an award-winning crime reporter working for the Sunday World newspaper, is taking action to the Police Ombudsman after receiving death threats and other threats of violence over the previous 18 months.

In October 2019, she received the threat against her son by direct message to her Facebook account and named the suspect she believed was responsible to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

A year after reporting the threat to the PSNI, Devlin has made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman saying she is “frustrated by their lack of action”. Her case is supported by solicitors KRW Law, Amnesty International and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Patricia Devlin said:

“Because of my job as a journalist, exposing criminals and paramilitaries, I have been on the receiving end of threats of violence and death threats for years. In Northern Ireland, that now seems to go with the territory where press freedom comes at the price of constant and repeated threats to journalists.

“But, when I received a threat to rape my new-born baby, also identifying my grandmother and the location of where the sender believed she lived, I had enough. I reported the threat to the PSNI and was even able to name the individual I suspect was behind the threat.

“The police have had this individual’s name all this time, yet, a year on, no-one has been brought in for questioning, never mind arrested. Meanwhile, the police have given me a constantly changing and contradictory story as to why they have not acted.

“It is not acceptable for journalists to have to live under this sort of constant threat, to themselves and their families, simply for doing their jobs.

“That is why I am making this complaint to the Police Ombudsman today. Not just for me, but for all the reporters who have been receiving these threats, without anyone being held to account. This has to stop.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, added: ​

“That such despicable threats have been made is an outrage, but that the subsequent police investigation has been so ineffectual and flawed is also completely unacceptable. Facilitating impunity for those who choose to threaten, harass and attempt to silence journalists has a collective impact on the journalistic community, one which compounds the awful personal impact on Patricia and her family.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has this year set up the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists of which the Society of Editors is a member.

Under the project, the committee’s first objective is to develop a National Action Plan to create a framework through which the safety of journalists can be ensured and protected from physical harm and threats of violence.

Photo credit: Amnesty