High Court rules police warrant used in raid on journalist’s home ‘unlawful’
Sydney, Australia, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- A search warrant used by the Australian Federal Police to raid the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst was declared unlawful by the country’s top court on Wednesday.
The judges of the Australian High Court unanimously ruled that the police warrant was invalid because it failed to sufficiently specify the offense to which it related and misstated the relevant law.
“The entry, search and seizure which occurred on 4 June 2019 were therefore unlawful,” the ruling said.
The AFP was ordered to pay the costs of Smethurst and News Corp, but it was divided over what to do with the material seized in the raid.
The warrant had covered a range of items, including the password to Smethurst’s phone.
Three judges said they thought the material should not be kept by police, however the majority declined to make an order, meaning police could keep the material for any future possible prosecution related to the case, according to national broadcaster ABC.
Smethurst wrote an article published in the Sunday Telegraph in April 2018 that alleged the Australian government planned to empower intelligence agencies to spy on its citizens.
The story included images of a document created by the Australian Signals Directorate marked “secret” and “top secret,” under which the AFP argued Smethurst and the Sunday Telegraph had broken the law by publishing, ABC said.
A year later the AFP searched Smethurst’s home, and the same week carried out a raid on the ABC offices in Sydney for the leaking of documents related to alleged crimes committed by the Australian special forces deployed in Afghanistan, including the deaths of children.
The search multiple criticisms, including those of ABC President Ita Buttrose, who said they were “designed to intimidate” international media such as the BBC or human rights lawyers such as Amal Clooney, while also prompting a parliamentary committee to analyze press freedom in the country.
Since 2014, Australia has had a series of laws that criminalize the disclosure of information related to state interests, define new espionage offenses and allow access to citizens’ digital metadata, among other practices. EFE-EPA