by David Phelan May-26-2022 in Media Law, Advertising and Marketing Law, Commercial & Business

In 2020, the High Court had decided that An Garda Síochána were permitted, in the context of an ongoing investigation, to examine certain data on the mobile phone of a journalist. The Court of Appeal has now overturned that decision.

The High Court had ruled that Gardaí could access data on the journalist’s phone, including text messages, photographs, videos, call-logs and other information as part of an investigation into an alleged incident at a repossessed house in County Roscommon.  The High Court did, however, rule that the Gardaí were prohibited from accessing details of contacts on the journalist’s phone.

However, in its recent decision, the Court of Appeal quashed the warrant which had been issued by the District Court to the Gardaí to permit access to the journalist’s mobile phone.  The Court of Appeal found that the warrant was flawed as the Court was not satisfied that the journalist’s right to protect the identity of their sources had properly been taken into account before the warrant issued.  The Court went on to rule that any material from the mobile phone which had been accessed by the Gardaí could not be used as part their investigation and that the phone must be returned to the journalist.

The Court of Appeal found that the right of a journalist to protect their sources, whilst not absolute, is one guaranteed by the Constitution.

This is an important judgment in the context of the important principle of protection of journalistic sources. 

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