DISTRICT COURT judge Andrew Cody clearly possesses a sophisticated and flexible legal brain and he has not moved to haul the Sunday Times into court over what some have described as a potential breach of several orders he made recently in Tullamore District Court.
When a teenager appeared in the court charged with the murder last month of Offaly woman Lorna Woodnutt, gardaí and defence solicitor Aishling Moloney requested that reporting restrictions be imposed on the media. This was especially so because a video had been circulated and Justice Cody said he had been informed it could potentially identify the accused child. He also said the video was so graphic that it could harm anyone who viewed it, especially children.
Justice Cody retired for five minutes before returning and making several specific orders about what could not be reported – restrictions that were adhered to by national newspapers such as the Irish Times, Independent titles, the Sunday World, the Irish Mail on Sunday, the Journal.ie and others such as RTÉ.
The order even prevents mention of the precise nature of the orders.
However, the Irish edition of the ST also published the story and carried some of the detail that Judge Andrew Cody had singled out as not to be published.
It appears that the bulk of the ST’s story had been written – and posted online as well as prepared for the print edition – prior to the judge’s order being made. At 9.30 pm that Saturday night, Det Sgt Caroline Lyng told the court that the accused had been charged with murder at 8.50 pm at Tullamore Garda Station.
When Moloney and the gardaí requested the restrictions on media coverage, Judge Cody took five minutes to ponder his decision and a few more minutes elapsed before he made his order on restrictions. That would have been before 10 pm on the Saturday night in question.
The ST’s front-page article, while written before these orders were issued by the judge, included some details forbidden by the judge. The article concluded with a late addendum referring to the child being charged. Even that report broke one of the restrictions imposed by Judge Andrew Cody.
A flurry of late night and early Sunday morning phone calls between ST hacks and its battery of libel lawyers concluded that the order had possibly been breached and the online edition was taken down in its entirety but at that stage nothing could be done about the print edition.
No reaction came from the judge at a hearing the following week nor from the DPP or gardaí. Cue sighs of relief from the ST’s office and editor Nóirín Hegarty.