The Data Protection Act 2018 has a significant impact on the media’s access to court records. The Rules of the Superior Courts have implemented new rules to allow a bona fide member of the media access to documentation opened or deemed to have been opened in Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court.
A bone fide member of the media includes a persons who can produce a valid National Press Card, a valid International Federation of Journalists Press Card, a valid ID identifying them a reporter/correspondent or employed by an online new agency/website which is a member of the Press Council of Ireland, and reporter/ correspondent employed by a company licensed by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
Previously, the media have always had the right to report on what was said in open court. Under the new Rules, the media will now have a right to access documentation, in both civil and criminal matters, which is referred to in court and documentation which is deemed to have been opened. This applies to the full document even if only a small portion of the document was referred to or if the Judge has read the document in preparation for the hearing. Restrictions will still apply to certain types of cases i.e. those held in camera.
Under the new rules, the media can access the documents under the supervision of the courts service and they can take a copy of the document, provided they give an undertaking to return the document at the end of the reporting of the hearing. The media can also obtain a press release from the Courts Services in relation to the proceedings that they are reporting on.
The consequences of this change is that the media can thoroughly examine court documentation and this could lead to more detailed reporting. Therefore, clients may not want certain personal information and /or sensitive information to be available in the public sphere.
If you seek any advice on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact our litigation department.