Access to Written Submissions
I, Mary Irvine, President of the High Court, hereby issue the following Practice Direction in accordance with section 11(12) and (13) of the Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020.
This Practice Direction will come into effect on 11th January, 2021.
- In the interests of transparency and consistent with the principle of open justice, any member of the public may seek access to the written submissions provided to the Court by parties in proceedings in accordance with the following Practice Direction.
- This Practice Direction applies exclusively to written submissions in civil proceedings provided to the Court at a hearing by any party, in respect of which an Order has been made by a Judge of the High Court giving Judgment in those proceedings that same be made available to members of the public on the terms set out in this Practice Direction.
- No Order as referred to at paragraph 2 above shall be made in cases heard in camera, or cases where there are reporting restrictions in place pursuant to statute.
- With effect from the date of the coming into force of this Practice Direction, if a party intends to provide written submissions to the court and those submissions contain information the publication of which is prohibited by, or would contravene any restriction contained in any enactment or rule of law or order of a court, including data protection legislation, and/or the submissions have not been subject to the principle of data minimisation under data protection legislation, that party must prepare a redacted version of its written submissions, to be headed up “Written Submissions for Public Release”, from which all such information shall have been deleted, in addition to the written submissions prepared for the court. It is the responsibility of each party intending to provide written submissions to identify such material. Each party must ensure that the Written Submissions for Public Release are in accordance with law having regard to their intended purpose, including data protection law. Each party should, inter alia, take cognisance of the obligation in data protection law of data minimisation, i.e. that any information that is not necessary or that contains peripheral information should be removed e.g. addresses, bank account numbers, ages or names of children and similar types of information.
- The Written Submissions for Public Release should contain the date, the identity of the party on behalf of whom the submissions were provided, and the identity of the solicitor and counsel for that party.
- It shall be the responsibility of each party to ensure that the Written Submissions for Public Release do not contain scandalous, abusive or vexatious material.
- There must not be any handwritten comments or markings of any nature on the Written Submissions for Public Release.
- Save where the Presiding Judge otherwise directs, when judgment is given following a hearing wherein written submissions were provided to the Court by any party, the Court shall make an Order that Written Submissions for Public Release, as defined at paragraph 4 above, shall be filed with the Central Office by the relevant party/parties within the time prescribed in the Order and shall be made available to members of the public, if requested, on the conditions set out in the remainder of this Practice Direction. To ensure against any potential error in the Court’s order, parties who filed written submissions should have copies of those submissions before the court on the date upon which the court’s judgement is to be delivered. Where the judgement is to be delivered remotely, the relevant submissions should be sent by soft copy to the appropriate court registrar in advance of the date fixed for the delivery of judgement.
- A copy of Written Submissions for Public Release in any given case may be sought by a member of the public by sending a request to the Principal Registrar at the Central Office. That request should identify the name of the proceedings, the record number of the proceedings, and, if available, the date of Judgment and the name of the Trial Judge.
- The Principal Registrar may;
(a) provide a copy of the written submissions in electronic form subject to the conditions set out in this Practice Direction on payment of any fee chargeable for such copy;
(b) seek the direction of the Trial Judge who made the Order directing that the Written Submissions for Public Release the subject of the request be made available to members of the public.
- The provision of Written Submissions for Public Release to members of the public does not involve or imply any waiver of copyright therein by the author/s of those submissions.
- This Practice Direction applies only to written submissions prepared and/or submitted by one or more practising barristers and/or practising solicitors.
President of the High Court
13th November, 2020