Monday, January 17, 2011

Covering court proceedings online - James Doleman's experience at the Tommy Sheridan trial

Public Art Squiggle outside Belfast court complex

One of the first topics of substance this blog covered was my experiences of being on Jury Service in Downpatrick back in the Spring of 2006. I did get selected for one jury and we sat in court and listened to a whole morning of evidence [that's 90 minutes of evidence as court started at 10.30am and we finished at lunchtime as the judge needed to get back to Belfast for other cases] before the jury was dismissed over an undisclosed legal issue.

Working close to the Belfast Courts and walking past them most days on the way to lunch, I've often wondered what goes on inside. I've been tempted more than once to call in when a case of note is on and see what happens.

FOI advocate and activist Heather Brooke talks in one of her books about the difficulty in accessing the justice system, in particular the difficulty as a member of the public in finding up-to-date information about where and when a case is being heard. And the rules about the live coverage of court cases in England and Wales opened up a little in late December (as I posted over on Slugger O'Toole).

The Courts and Tribunals Service website publishes Court Lists for the range of court types and locations across Northern Ireland. There's an online database that can be queried and there's also a Court of Judicature List that seems to show what's happening the very next day.

All this is by way of introduction to the point of this post.

The Guardian recently published a great piece by Scottish blogger James Doleman who sat in through the Tommy Sheridan trial. He tracked every twist and turn of the case, was nearly thrown out of court by the police for taking notes before the clerk of the court intervened. Well worth a read.

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