Woman challenges PSNI over phone seized in West Belfast fatal hit-and-run probe

Woman challenges PSNI over phone seized in West Belfast fatal hit-and-run probe
Written by Publishing Team

A woman whose phone was seized by police investigating a fatal hit-and-run in West Belfast has launched a High Court bid to block the downloading of her personal data.

She is challenging the lawfulness of a decision to access content stored on her device as part of the probe into the collision which claimed the life of Richard Gerard Boyle.

Mr Boyle, 42, was reportedly struck by a vehicle while walking his dog on the Stewartstown Road on February 5 last year. The Dunmurry man died later in hospital.

At least five people have been arrested in connection with the crash and released pending reports to the Public Prosecution Service.

In October police searched the home of a West Belfast woman and seized her phone.

She is not suspected of involvement in the crash and cannot be named for legal reasons.

But according to her lawyers, detectives believe the device may contain information relating to the movements of one of those arrested during the investigation.

Judicial review proceedings have now been brought against the PSNI over plans to carry out Mobile Phone Extraction (MPE).

The process is used by police and other authorities to download content and personal data from handsets.

The woman claims it breaches her entitlement to privacy and family life, protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Contending there is no legal permission to access the information, she also alleges a violation of the Data Protection Act.

The case has been fast-tracked for full hearing at the High Court next month in order to secure a determination before anything can be downloaded from the phone.

A solicitor who represents the woman predicted that it could have further implications for thousands of other devices seized in Northern Ireland.

Owen Beattie of KRW Law said: “We contend that the absence of robust safeguards in the extraction of personal data from mobile phones by police is unlawful.

“This challenge will raise broader issues on the police policy not just in this case, but throughout police investigations in this jurisdiction”.

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Publishing Team