by David Phelan September-13-2018 in Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Media Law, Data Protection

On 1 August 2018, new Superior Court, District Court and Circuit Court Rules came into operation allowing “bona fide” members of the media to request disclosure of information contained in a court record.

The new rules give effect to section 159(7) of the Data Protection Act 2018, and are “for the purpose of facilitating the fair and accurate reporting” of court proceedings. The new rules only apply to documentation which has been opened or is deemed to have been opened in court and can include personal data contained in the court record. A document has been opened in court when the document has been read, either in whole or part, before the court. A document is deemed to have been open in court when reference is made to portions of the document or the judge has read the document prior to the hearing and has indicated that he/she will consider it as having been open in court.

The request can be granted by either an officer of the court, a member of the Court Service staff in the relevant office, or other person so authorised by the President of the relevant court. Such a disclosure can be made in three ways:

  1. Supervised inspection of the court record,
  2. Provision of a copy, or allowing a copy to be made, of the relevant document within the court record on an undertaking that any copies made will be returned when the reporting of the case is completed, or
  3. Provision of a press release or by information in an oral or written form.

The new rules are not retrospective and only apply to proceedings commenced on or after 1 August 2018. Additionally, the new rules will not affect existing prohibitions on reporting on cases held in camera or private hearings. Any disclosure is subject to any Order or Directions of the court given in a particular case.

The new rules state that the member of the media requesting the disclosure will have to sufficiently verify to the satisfaction of the person to whom the request is made that he or she is a “bona fide” member of the media. Therefore, some form of identification or documentation will need to be presented, such as a National Press Card issued by the National Union of Journalists, to verify the requester’s status. The Court Service is due to release guidelines in relation to accessing court records prior to commencement of the new legal term in October.

For further information, please contact David Phelan or Ashley Lewis at Hayes solicitors.

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