Media to get greater access to court record information

New court rules will come into operation today which will give members of the media permission to access court documents. These measures, which apply in both the civil and criminal courts, will formalise the media’s access to information and are being introduced under the Data Protection Act 2018.

From Wednesday 1 August 2018, the Central Office may give bona fide members of the media access to information and documentation that has either been opened (presented), or deemed to have been opened, in court. 

Disclosure of court documents

A bona fide member of the media can request an officer of the Courts Service to disclose information, including personal data contained in a court record for the purpose of facilitating the fair and accurate reporting of a hearing in the proceedings to which it relates. If granted disclosure can be made in the following ways:

  • allowing supervised inspection of the document,
  • provision of a copy of the document on receipt of an undertaking that it will be returned following reporting, or
  • provision of a press release or other provision of information in oral or written form.

Who are bona fide members of the media?

Media accreditation will be reserved for members of the press (print, photo, radio, TV, film, news agencies and online media) who represent a bona fide media organisation. To qualify as a member of the media a person must who hold a National Press Card issued by the National Union of Journalists, a card demonstrating employment by a member of the Press Council of Ireland or the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, or an International Federation of Journalists Press Card. Alternatively non card holders with a letter signed by their publisher or editor-in-chief, may be recognised by the Courts Service Media Relations Office as bona fide members of the media.

Effect of the new rules

The changes outlined above are in contrast to the previous position where only information openly available in court was allowed to be the subject of media reporting.

The new rules do not in any way displace existing legal restrictions on reporting of in camera or private hearings and will operate subject to any order or direction made by a court in any specific case. The rules will only apply to proceedings commenced on or after 1 August 2018 and will not apply retrospectively to cases already in being or concluded.

Date published: 3 August 2018