Sunday 21 April 2019

Law professors clash over Trinity College paper's secret recording of 'hazing'

Prof David Kenny said the paper’s defence was flawed
Prof David Kenny said the paper’s defence was flawed
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Law professors at Trinity College Dublin have clashed over whether a university newspaper was justified in secretly recording an alleged society initiation ceremony.

'The University Times' has defended its actions, saying it believes they were in the public interest.

It cited the High Court's refusal in 2005 to grant orders restraining RTÉ from broadcasting secret recordings exposing the mistreatment of residents at Leas Cross Nursing Home.

Three of the university's law school professors, Neville Cox, Oran Doyle and David Kenny, have said the legal defence used by the newspaper was "fundamentally flawed".

This has led to a clash with one of their colleagues, associate law professor Dr Eoin O'Dell, who described their analysis as "incomplete".

Dr O'Dell said the newspaper could rely on the RTÉ case to argue publication of the story was in the public interest, a position supported by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

An article on an alleged "hazing" incident involving a male-only sports society called the Knights of the Campanile was published by the 'University Times' on March 15.

Hazing is an abusive and often humiliating form of initiation into a group.

Two investigations by Trinity authorities are now under way. One is focussed on the alleged incident, while the other relates to the methods used to obtain the story.

A recording device was placed outside the on-campus apartment of a member of the society but was discovered before it could be retrieved by reporters.

However, the newspaper reported raised voices, taunting and jeering were heard from outside the building.

Writing in a different university-based publication, 'Trinity News', Prof Cox, Associate Prof Doyle and Assistant Prof Kenny said that it would be difficult to imagine anything occurring in student residences that would involve a public interest sufficiently weighty to allow journalists to breach constitutional privacy protections by bugging or listening outside.

Irish Independent

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