Media coverage of trials fraught with legal difficulties

Coverage of the separate trials of Catherine O’Connor and Ciprian Grozavu was problematic as a result of an application at Grozavu’s trial to report nothing at all in case it would prejudice the trial of O’Connor.

Barrister James Burke, for O’Connor, made the application after the jury was sworn for the Grozavu trial but before they came out to hear evidence. The DPP supported the application.

Mr Justice Carney did not make an order but said: “My attitude towards this is well known. The press don’t like being told what to do, they like to tell us what to do.

“They should take their own counsel and get it right, and if they get it wrong, take the consequences. It has been made very clear that if they get it wrong and prejudice the other trial they would face the consequences, which would be cataclysmic.”

Journalists decided to cover the start of the Grozavu trial but not to refer to evidence that might emerge in relation to O’Connor in Grozavu’s trial.

Mr Justice Carney did ban coverage of the trial “on social media” but, during the application, wondered how such an order could be implemented. A notice was put on the door of the court about the social media ban.

At the end of the first day, Mr Justice Carney said if everything was published of that day’s proceedings, he could not see how there would be anything wrong. Mr Burke said difficulties would arise later in the coverage of the Grozavu trial.

The Irish Examiner’s legal advice after the initial coverage of the Grozavu trial was that it would be unsafe to carry day-to-day coverage or the outcome of his trial in advance of O’Connor’s.

In fact, when O’Connor’s trial began, Isobel Kennedy SC, for O’Connor, said the press should be ordered not to mention the guilty verdict in the Grozavu trial.

However, later in the trial, Ms Kennedy told the O’Connor jury Grozavu had been convicted of murdering Jonathan Duke.

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