CAJ welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation on note-taking and the use of live text-based communications in court in Northern Ireland. CAJ is a Non-Governmental Organisation practising a ‘watch-dog’ role in relation to civil liberties and human rights. This involves routinely attending at and observing proceedings which we generally do by the use of interns and volunteers. We ask our representatives to attend the court hearing and report back to us on what happened. We consider this to be a valuable way of monitoring court proceedings as it provides a much fuller and more accurate report of the proceedings than media coverage would allow.
CAJ represented Rights Watch (UK) in judicial review proceedings against the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal’s Service (NICTS) in October 2014 concerning the implementation of a policy which prohibited the taking of notes in court without the prior permission of the judge hearing the case. This related to its Guidance Note placed on the NICTS website which indicated that any person wishing to take notes in court must obtain the permission of the judge beforehand. It directed that this was to be done by either informing the court clerk or a member of Resource security staff in the courtroom before proceedings start or submitting the request in writing or via email to the Court Office before the relevant court hearing commences. Such a request was to be made as far in advance as possible and required that you state the name and reference number of the case and give your reasons for wanting to take notes.