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BBC Northern Ireland lands top award for rape trial investigation

28 Jun 2019 / AWARDS Print

BBC Northern Ireland lands top award for rape trial investigation

BBC Northern Ireland is the overall winner of this year’s Justice Media Awards for its Spotlight programme, ‘When is Sex Rape?’ 

The television feature took the top award in the ‘Broadcast Journalism (TV/video)’ category – and went on to win the overall prize.

The judges described the work of Richard Newman, Lyndsey Telford, Gwyneth Jones and Jeremy Adams as “encapsulating everything that the Justice Media Awards strives to promote and encourage”. 

The awards are organised by the Law Society of Ireland and are the country’s longest, continuously-running media awards.

A total of 120 leading journalists gathered at the Society’s headquarters in Dublin yesterday (27 June) where they vied for a total of 35 prestigious awards and merits.

Recognising excellence

“We believe it is hugely important to recognise and reward excellence in legal journalism,” said Law Society President, Patrick Dorgan. “Journalism that promotes a greater public understanding of the law, the legal system and specific legal issues is of immeasurable value – and this year’s awards recognise some fine examples.”

Tony Connelly (RTÉ) took the award in the daily ‘Print/Online Journalism’ category for his article: ‘How the backstop deal was done – and why Cox blew it apart’. Judges described it as: “Brilliant, highly-entertaining and searingly insightful reporting by a journalist at the height of his powers, amid the floundering and tension surrounding the Brexit backstop talks.” 

The Sunday ‘Print/Online Journalism’ award went to Elaine Byrne (Sunday Business Post) for her article: ‘Due process abandoned on the altar of social media’. The judges described the article as “gutsy, challenging widely-held public opinions on the outcome of one of the most high-profile trials ever held on the island of Ireland”. 

Jess Casey of the Limerick Leader took the provincial newspaper award for her article: ‘It’s abuse all over again’: legal fight has put former students ‘through the mill’. The judges commented that this was ”an important piece of reporting focusing on the voice of the victim, and strong analysis of a difficult legal anomaly. The key distinguishing feature of this journalist’s work is the impact it had. Alongside dedicated advocacy by survivor groups, this article brought vital attention to their case, ultimately leading to a change in redress scheme policy”. 

Broadcasting winners

Newstalk’s Andrea Gilligan won the top award in the national broadcast journalism category for her programme on ‘Sentencing: crime and punishment’. The judges praised the programme for “the expertise of a deeply credible and influential expert panel, moderated by a presenter with a clear vision. The listener comes away with a strong sense of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of sentencing in the Irish courts”. 

The local radio category winner was Fiona McGarry (Clare FM) for her programme: ‘Bedford Row: supporting Clare’s prison families’. The judges described this as an “excellent feature”. It shone a light on an innovative court project that replaced the ‘poor box’ with a special fund that is used to provide advice, support, counselling and vocational training to prisoners and their families. 

Helen Bruce (Irish Daily Mail & Extra.ie) was back on the winner’s podium once again this year for her court report titled: ‘The Cervical Check scandal’. The judging panel described it as: “Hugely impressive, genuine front-page exposé news, centred around the voices of the women most affected. This stalwart of the Justice Media Awards continues her success with an important series of articles on the outrage and tragedy of the Cervical Check scandal.” 

In the broadcasting court reporting category, the award went to Frank Greaney (Newstalk) for his series of radio report titled: ‘The Mr Moonlight trial: Mary Lowry takes the stand’. The judges praised this reporter’s daily coverage of the trial, which provided listeners with a comprehensive account of Mary Lowry’s evidence. “This was respectful and empathetic reporting on a trial that gripped the nation for weeks on end.” 

Human rights spotlight

The Human Rights/Social Justice category was won by Paddy Hayes (Magamedia/TG4) for his documentary ‘Finné: Martin Conmey’ about a wrongfully convicted man’s campaign to clear his name. The judges said: “This excellent documentary highlights an often unseen side of Ireland’s criminal justice system: those wrongfully convicted of the most serious crimes and their battle for justice.” 

A series of articles exposing the difficulties faced by Honduran workers in their mission to unionise won the ‘International Justice Reporting’ category. An article by Paul O’Donoghue (The Times, Ireland Edition) titled ‘How labour problems in Honduras tainted Fyffes’ fair trade image’ was a follow-up of a previous award-winning article in the JMAs. The judges commented that Paul’s “detailed, consistent and persistent reporting on the international conduct of a major Irish company has already had a positive impact on the lives of workers in one of the world’s poorest regions”. 

The ‘Newcomer of the Year’ award was presented to Eamonn Hickson (Radio Kerry). Eamonn’s “distinctive voice” impressed the judges, who referred to his particular strength in court reporting. “Balancing complex and sometimes distressing detail with concise reporting, he also demonstrates a strong eye for the human impact of the courts system and its failings.” 

More than 220 entries were received for this year’s Justice Media Awards, which celebrates its 28th anniversary. The awards were established to foster greater public understanding of the law, the legal system and specific legal issues. 

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland