Attorney General calls for defamation law review to protect court reporters

Attorney General Máire Whelan
Attorney General Máire Whelan

Attorney General Máire Whelan has called for a review of Ireland’s defamation laws in order to ensure court reporters are not exposed to the risk of litigation.

Speaking in the Four Courts on Friday, Ms Whelan said court reporters have one of the “most challenging assignments in journalism” and needed to have assurances that they would not face litigation or damages claims as a result of a “simple oversight, omission or error” in reporting proceedings.

She suggested legislating to provide that no report of court proceedings should be actionable in defamation unless malice can be proven - otherwise, the effect on court reporting could be “chilling”.

Ms Whelan was speaking in the Four Courts during a ceremony marking the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns’s last day on the bench.

She drew attention to article 34.1 of the Constitution, which provides “save in special and limited circumstances as may be prescribed by law justice shall be administered in public”.

Ms Whelan praised court reporters for executing “this important constitutional value and thereby the public interest”.

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