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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Award for court reporter

Press Release

Release date: 12 September 2023

Award for court reporter

The governing Council of the Chartered Institute of Journalists has issued a special award to an Institute member in Northern Ireland for her outstanding work in upholding Open Justice.

Tanya Fowles, a court reporter and Local Democracy journalist, has sought to halt a developing and worrying trend whereby courts issue anonymity orders for trial defendants who claim that publicity may cause them to self-harm. Ms Fowles has been challenging the growing practice of unjustifiable anonymity orders for several years. In November 2021, she successfully resisted an application by lawyers representing a woman seeking a life-long anonymity order, following convictions for fraud and money-laundering offences.

However, not everything has gone her way. In June 2023, Tanya unsuccessfully sought the support of Northern Ireland’s most senior judge to reverse the legal jurisdiction’s unique position of providing this protection to paedophiles beyond the practice of giving lifelong anonymity only to exceptional convicted prisoners in notorious murder cases. She argued that prisoners making such threats in their mitigation would be eligible for immediate placement on the ‘Supporting Prisoners At Risk’ scheme to prevent self-harm, and that such orders are disproportionate and contrary to what lifetime anonymity has previously reserved for.

Without legions of media lawyers and the deep pockets of large media corporations to support her, Tanya Fowles has faced an uphill battle – but she is undeterred. Her tenacious, passionate and effective advocacy of Open Justice and the right to know through fair, accurate, public interest reporting, has already seen her work recognised by the BBC who awarded her the corporation’s Local Democracy Reporter of the Year award in 2022.

The Institute’s Council felt that the outstanding work of this tenacious CIoJ member should not go unrecognised by our organisation. The Chairman of the CIoJ’s Professional Practices Board (PPB), Professor Tim Crook told The Journal: “Tanya’s campaigns and representations exponentially enhance her value and remind us of the importance of professional journalism in holding to the highest standards.

“Such interventions as court-issued anonymity orders substantially add considerably to the stress and workload of a busy and conscientious journalist with a demanding news beat. Notwithstanding this, Tanya brings intelligence and an outstanding cogency of argument, combined with the experience of a dedicated professional journalist, to the courtrooms and judges she challenges. It is absolutely right that Tanya’s exceptional work should be honoured by the Institute in this way.”

Tanya Fowles will receive her award at a reception to be held in conjunction with the Institute’s AGM at the Reform Club on October 26. All members are welcome to attend, which will be a free event.