From 1 August 2018, the media will have access to documents opened in an Irish court, or taken to have been opened in an Irish court. This is a welcome development for the media and has been implemented to facilitate the fair and accurate reporting of court hearings. Parties should be aware that this potentially means that documents filed in proceedings which might make reference to commercially sensitive and/or confidential information may be accessed by the media even if that content has not necessarily been read out in court.
There has been no change to the rules on non-party access to court documents.
OPENED IN COURT
If legal proceedings progress to hearing, or if there is an interlocutory motion, certain documents will be opened in court i.e., they will be read into the court record. The documents may not necessarily be read word for word, beginning to end. A document may be taken to have been opened in open court where, for example, reference is made in court to relevant passages from the document and some of the passages are read in part or in full, or where the judge has read the document in advance and has indicated that he/she is treating it as having been opened in court.
The media have always had the right to report what was said in open court (subject to limited exceptions), but they have not until now had a specific right to access documents referred to in open court.
Now bona fide members of the press or broadcast media may request that information contained in a court record be disclosed to them for the purpose of facilitating the fair and accurate reporting of a court hearing. This means that they may:
inspect the court record under the supervision of an officer of the court or Courts Service personnel; or take a copy of a document forming part of the court record on the undertaking that they will return the copy once they have finished reporting on the hearing; or be given a press release or other information (orally or in writing) by an officer of the court or by Courts Service personnel concerning the proceedings. The member of the media seeking access will have to verify that he/she is a bona fide member of the press or broadcast media.
Restrictions on the reporting of certain types of court case (e.g. cases heard in private) will continue in place and the court may in appropriate circumstances place specific restrictions on what the media may report.
The Courts Service is expected to publish guidelines...