There has been some commentary on social media about coverage of the action Ian Bailey is taking against the state and the Gardaí.
Some people have suggested a media conspiracy that in some way seeks to present something other than the full picture being reported.
I had thought it could be taken as something most people would be familiar with but maybe it’s worth going over the reporting restrictions in a jury action.
Although this is a civil case and not a criminal one it is being heard before a jury of eight men and four women. That means for the duration of the case you can only report what takes place in front of the jury.
You cannot report legal argument between opposing counsel that occurs in the absence of the jury, even though it has taken place in open court with the public in attendance.
You cannot report anything not heard by the jury even if you know it to be a fact. So if the witness does not say in evidence that it rained yesterday, you can’t report that even though it’s as plain as the nose on your face.
You cannot report evidence that probably will be heard at some point in the trial for fear it won’t be heard and that may be prejudicial to one side or another.
The other side of the equation is balanced by the fact that you have privilege (immunity from prosecution) in reporting the allegations or unproven claims of a witness. If the witness in his or her evidence claims rain made them turn to a life of crime, you can report it no matter how unfair or damaging it is to the reputation of rain.
It may seem proscriptive but those are the rules while the case is running. Breaking them runs the risk of being found in contempt of court and that would be an unnecessary distraction from the job at hand.
And yes, if you’re asking yourself “Has Philip really written a blog to shut a few Twitter trolls up?”, I have. The bus from RTÉ to the Four Courts takes 20 minutes and I wasn’t doing anything else.