Tracking Courts.ie

Courts.ie is a pretty difficult website to navigate. As government-type websites go, it probably has more information than you might expect. There is lots of room for improvement though. Apparently, in line with guidance from the Data Protection Commissioner, Courts.ie blocks Google from indexing its website. This relates to the so-called “right to be forgotten”.

However, access to information rights are not limited to access to government documents via FOI or AIE, they also extend to courts documents. In Ireland the system is positively Victorian.

A quick examination of the Courts Robots.txt file tells us how the indexing works. Robots.txt is the file that tells search engines what they can and can’t index. Here’s the Courts one:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /legaldiary.nsf/

User-agent: *
Disallow: /judgments.nsf/

User-agent: *
Disallow: /LegalDiary.NSF/

Which basically tells Google to feck off from the legal diary and judgments. The text that appears in these pages won’t appear on Google search results. This makes tracking Courts.ie all the more difficult, but also all the more essential, particularly for journalists.

For example:

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 20.47.45

These cases, filed on October 21, apparently involving IBRC (formerly Anglo Irish Bank) board members Alan Dukes and Mike Aynsley vs Independent News & Media, look to be of some news interest.

Tracking court filings is one of the basics of journalism, it’s a shame the Courts website doesn’t make it easier.

4 thoughts on “Tracking Courts.ie”

  1. Slightly unrelated topic so forgive me.
    Request for National Transport Regulator annual budget 2009- 2013.
    The NTA have informed me this information is only available under a FOI request.
    Surely this basic information should be in the public domain given that Dublin Bus’ subsidy is freely circulated by the press?

  2. its not by accident that its hard to navigate, *all* state websites are, the sites exist so that the government/relevent department can’t be called out on not having the info available, yet they will make it as difficult as possible for anyone to find what they need to find (with exception of tourism websites, go figure! )

    one recent example is I had been searching for the exact proceedures and rights afforded to Irish citizens in the event of being arrested (our equivilent of miranda rights), other than one mention on the official garda site that said people who are arested will get “a sheet with all relevent info” when they are arrested, said info seems to too much trouble to just make available online. Its pretty bad when we can’t access basic info on basic rights, but thats Ireland all over.

  3. Any hope we could talk them into providing an RSS feed of filings? It might be a bit of a firehose, but it’d make the information easily available, and individual cases would naturally fall off the back of the feed as new stuff came in…

  4. The repealing of the 1997 Freedom of information act (over the next few weeks) affects you. With the REMOVAL of Three words in section 15 and 16 of the act ‘INDEX OF PRECEDENTS’, DECISION MAKING is to become OPAQUE.
    To clarify .At the moment eg if you are appealing a decision made by the HSE (medical card)/Dept of Social Protection/ Revenue/Housing etc each decision creates a precedent in law which all other appeals have to abide by. It creates transparency and consistency in the decision making process which you can access through FOI.

    Under the new repealed law ‘index of precedents’ is being removed which means that decision making becomes opaque, made arbitarily with no reference to previous decisions (think medical cards here). Eg re planning no reference to previous decisions need be proven leaving the door wide open for the brown envelope culture to flourish again. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. Also massive charges are being introduced to prevent journalists from being able to access info for their role as watch dogs.
    Time to contact your local TD with your concerns.

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