The Bar of Ireland discusses ‘trial by media’ at annual conference
The Bar of Ireland’s annual conference took place in Kilkenny over the weekend, focussing on the topical theme of “Trial by Media”.
Members of the Bar discussed matters including the use of television cameras in the courtroom, the impact of technology and social media on access to justice, and the effect of media coverage on the availability of impartial jurors.
International guest speakers included the BBC’s Joshua Rozenberg QC (hon); John Carlin, award-winning journalist and best-selling author; Cristi Charpentier, a US criminal defence attorney who works with death row inmates and Guantanamo detainees; and Gordon Jackson QC, vice dean of the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland.
Amongst the Irish speakers were Michael O’Higgins SC, barrister and author; barristers Sean Guerin SC and Shane Murphy SC; and journalists Colm Keena and Dearbhail McDonald.
The Conference sessions were chaired by the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, and by Michael McDowell SC.
David Barniville SC, chairman of the Council of The Bar of Ireland, said: “The media has always played a vital role in court proceedings and it’s important that they continue to do so. However, it’s critical that a balance is struck between public access and the integrity of the justice system – a simple tweet could cause a mistrial.
“Access to justice is a core fundamental right and it is a principle that the members of The Bar of Ireland strenuously defend and fight on a daily basis on behalf of their clients. Defendants must be given the opportunity to a fair trial, without first being deemed guilty in the court of ‘public opinion’. In that sense it’s important that responsible reporting and high ethical standards are maintained.
“As the representative body for the independent referral bar, the Council of The Bar of Ireland considers this to be an increasingly important issue – particularly in light of recent developments in the UK.
“As the media landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace and new technologies are introduced, the media and the legal profession must continue to work together in a way that best serves wider society in the best possible way.”