Court proceedings to be televised for first time

Pilot project will broadcast Supreme Court judgements as they are read out

Irish court proceedings are to be televised for the first time as part of a pilot project involving RTÉ and the Courts Service.

The national broadcaster is in negotiations with the Courts Service to record and televise the Supreme Court.

The project will be a significant move towards increased access to the courts for the media. It is understood RTÉ’s news division will initially be allowed to record certain judgements as they are read out by the Supreme Court justices.

This footage will also be made available to other news organisations and will be uploaded to the internet. There will be scope for the footage to be used in current affairs and documentary programmes.


The announcement was made by Courts Service spokesman Gerry Curran on Wednesday evening at a conference on access to justice organised by Newsbrands, a group representing Irish newspapers and news websites.

There is no specific law banning cameras from Irish courts and technically it is up to individual judges to decide the issue. There have been a handful of requests from litigants in the past to allow the recording of proceedings but this is the first time the issue has been seriously considered.

The Newsbrands conference also heard there are demands for increased access to court documents for the media, including CCTV footage and images which are shown to juries in criminal trials.

In Ireland, unlike in many other jurisdictions, the media and members of the public have no access to documents presented in court. Reporters complain this makes it extremely difficult to accurately report on complex white-collar crime trials such as those involving former officials at Anglo Irish Bank.

Court documents

John Battle, a lawyer for UK broadcaster ITN, said that for the past 10 years a system has been in place in Britain where court documents are shared with the media to aid its reporting.

“I understand that it’s very difficult to get hold of information or images here, or documents from the courts,” Mr Battle said. “I’m surprised at that.”

He told The Irish Times there had been few problems with the UK system since its inception.

“In the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service Media Protocol has now been running for over 10 years. Cameras have filmed the Supreme Court since its inception in 2009. The most important thing with all these initiatives is that the sky has not fallen down. Trials have not been affected; there have been no real problems.

“But the real change is that the public is given more information about court cases and their legal system. It leads to greater understanding and engagement with the legal process. For those involved in the system – judges, lawyers, prosecution authorities – it has meant greater public understanding of what they actually do. That’s a good thing. For the media it means we’re better equipped to do our job and to inform the public.”

During the recent trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick a group of media outlets made an application for access to the thousands of documents which were presented to the jury. This was refused by Judge John Aylmer who said it was a matter for the Courts Service.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times