Three senior Irish Examiner journalists and an Echo reporter were among the winners of this year's Justice Media Awards.
Cormac O'Keeffe, the Irish Examiner's Security Correspondent, Caroline O'Doherty, Senior Reporter, and Ann Murphy, Echo reporter, were each awarded certificates of merit.
Jess Casey, the Irish Examiner's newly appointed Education Correspondent, was declared the category winner for print/online local journalism for a feature she wrote while working with the Limerick Leader newspaper.
120 of Ireland’s leading journalists gathered at the Law Society of Ireland’s historic headquarters at Blackhall Place, Dublin 7, with 35 awards and merits presented to the deserving winners.
“We believe it is hugely important to recognise and reward excellence in legal journalism,” said President of the Law Society of Ireland Patrick Dorgan.
“Journalism that promotes a greater public understanding of the law, the legal system and specific legal issues is of immeasurable value and this year’s awards recognise some fine examples.”
The Belfast rape trial, Cervical Check scandal and mental health law were among the key topics across more than 220 entries for the 28th annual awards.
The top prize was awarded to BBC Northern Ireland, for their Spotlight investigation, When is Sex Rape?
Judges said Cormac O'Keeffe's The Spying Game, a series of exclusive articles on the State’s use of controversial data access powers, was one of the strongest entries in the highly competitive category of daily print/online journalism.
Describing the series as an “excellent, impactful body of work,” the judges said it “showcased this reporter’s investigative nous and persistence in tracking down what he was after.”
Caroline O'Doherty's exposé on the impact of unauthorised building developments which focused on the case of a magnificent home in County Meath built almost entirely without planning permission, was described as a “very well-illustrated insight into the problem of unauthorised building and the legal machinations surrounding the issue".
Jess Casey's feature highlighting the case of a group of primary school abuse survivors and their struggle to secure State compensation was described as an “important piece of reporting” that changed Government policy.
“The key distinguishing feature of this journalist’s work is the impact it had: alongside dedicated advocacy by survivor groups, this article brought vital attention to their case, ultimately leading to a change in redress scheme policy.”
Ann Murphy's series of articles in The Echo assessed the cost of free legal aid in cases featuring a high number of previous offences. “This is thoughtful, detailed and balanced reporting on a complex and controversial topic, creating greater public understanding of important legal issues," said the judges.
The overall winner of the competition went to members of the BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight team, Richard Newman, Lyndsey Telford, Gwyneth Jones & Jeremy Adams, for their investigative report, When Is Sex Rape?
The judges said the TV feature, which also won the Broadcast Journalism (TV/video) category, “encapsulates everything that the Justice Media Awards strives to promote and encourage.”
Describing the programme as a unique TV experiment exploring the law pertaining to the prosecution of rape in Northern Ireland, the judges described it as: “top-quality, truly innovative journalism which explored some of the most difficult themes and questions raised by the Belfast rape trial".