Courts And A Social Media Ban


Chief Justice Frank Clarke and Fine Gael Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan at the launch of Courts Service Annual Report 2017 in Phoenix House, Dublin, on Saturday


In The Sunday Times.

Mark Tighe reported that, on Saturday, the chief justice of Ireland Frank Clarke announced a ban on the use of social media and all electronic communications within courts except in the case of “bona fide” journalists or lawyers.

He reported:

Clarke said the presidents of the five courts, from the District Court to the Supreme Court, had signed a practice direction meaning the ban would apply to all courts.

He said the new rule was a form of “soft law”. It would not create a criminal offence but judges could order parties to stop using devices, to surrender phones or order them to leave court if they refused to comply.

“In a paper released by Clarke, he appeared to point to the Jobstown case as one of a number of recent trials that showed a need for regulation.

“…Charlie Flanagan, the justice minister, welcomed the rules, saying it was essential to ‘ensure the integrity of the trial process’.

Journalists considered bona fide would be those who work for a publisher or broadcaster signed up to standards set by the Press Council of Ireland or the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It also includes members of the National Union of Journalists.”

Jobstown trial farrago inspires ban on live court tweets (Mark Tighe, The Sunday Times)

10 thoughts on “Courts And A Social Media Ban

  1. RuilleBuille

    Of course the reason citizens tweeted, etcetera was because the main stream media only report the establishment viewpoint.

  2. G

    Dangerous precedent setting language ” Bone fide” journalism, suspect Judge Clarke would feel more comfortable practicing law in another jurisdiction, Turkey?

    Given the tone deaf behaviour of the legal profession not surprising.

  3. Eoin

    Look forward to reading the practice direction because it look’s (1) nonsensical and (2) unenforceable

    Will Joe Bloggs be able to pop outside the court room to tweet what he has just seen or heard 5 seconds beforehand? Or will he be able to pop into the cafe across the road and tweet what he has just seen or heard 10 minutes beforehand? Will he be able to tweet what he has seen or heard five years after the hearing?

    Will Josephine Bloggs have to sit on her hands during a court sitting while the judge is reading out a judgement, and while the “bona fide” journalists are banging away at their laptops, what possible harm could come from Josephine live tweeting the judgement? What about non-criminal hearings? What about non-jury criminal hearings?

    Practice directions are enforceable by the judge in the court room. How will judges enforce the practice direction unless someone sees Joe Bloggs tweeting something about the hearing? Maybe Joe is on twitter, fine, but he’s tweeting about what he had for breakfast.”show me your phone, Mr Bloggs, before you log out as Joe Bloggs citizen journalist and log in as Joe Bloggs, Kardashian fan” In some courts, there’s no special seating for the press, so how will judges be able to tell who’s “bona fide”?

    Once you give people access to social media, and as long as those people are entitled to attend court hearings, you can’t stop people tweeting at source. You can do it afterwards by prosecuting for contempt of court, or you can enforce the no-use of social media for jurors again with the threat of contempt, but this practice direction just looks totally ill-conceived m’lud.

  4. Fact Checker

    This would be fine if the Courts Service website provided up-to-date and complete transcripts and judgements from everything down to the District Court.

    This is not the case however.

    It’s no surprise that people turn to social media for information about how justice is being served, when so little information is officially put in the public domain.

  5. anne

    Bona fida journalists in Ireland? I don’t think so…

    Would this affect the likes of Olga reporting for Broadsheet? Can she get Bona Fida’d?

  6. anne

    Why did the Jobstown trial dictate the need for this ban? Because numerous Gardai lied under oath & were tripped up about the kidnapping of Moany Joan? What did any regular Joe soap tweet that was untrue exactly?

    1. b

      the defence barristers showed up the gardai’s evidence, not random people tweeting from the court

      it’s crucial that a jury is not tainted by evidence that was not tested in court, it’s nothing to do with what was ‘true’ or what the ‘establishment’ didn’t want reported

  7. Ads

    In two minds here. Anything at all can be said in court – lawyers and witnesses and accused can even talk about unconnected things like knickers. Either we have all court proceedings (except rape, children and family cases) broadcast or we leave reporting to the professionals. Or we decide on a case by case basis. Think of those trials back in the day when jurors and their families were threatened… reporting such a threat live could act as a signal.

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