The Media successfully protect Open Justice

12 April 2017

Author: Olivia O'Kane
Practice Area: Media and Entertainment


BBC NI, Belfast Telegraph, UTV and the Sunday World, representatives of the NIELG instructed Olivia O’Kane to act on their behalf to challenge reporting restrictions that had been previously been lawfully imposed in a serious criminal case involving serious criminality including violations of the Sexual Offences (NI) Order 2008 together with violations of the Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2003 and of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

The case was heard before His Honour Judge Lynch in Craigavon Court house, who reviewed the reporting restrictions and after considering written and oral submissions on behalf of the media he ruled that the legal balance fell in favour of open justice and removed the restrictions. The importance of the media, acting as public watchdog, in reporting the courts is a fundamental principle of law. Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) provides, inter alia, that judgements shall be pronounced publicly and Article 10 of the ECHR provides the media with the right to freedom of expression which includes the imparting of information.

The SCUK has recognised throughout its jurisprudence that the press perform an important function in a democratic society which as the watchdog of the public, includes their right to report everything that takes place in a criminal court, subject to some exceptions. The importance of the media to report criminal trials is a crucial aspect of the criminal justice system and of the public interest in the administration of justice as a whole. The media in taking this legal challenge did so to ensure that it could exercise its role as the watchdog for our society and to ensure that the public were fully informed of these criminal proceedings.

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