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Trinity College Dublin law profs split over whether student newspaper bugging halls to expose secret society’s ‘hazing’ was legal

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Law school bigwigs wade into covert recording dispute

Law professors at Ireland’s most prestigious law school have split into rival factions over a student newspaper bugging scandal that has made national headlines.

Three academics at Trinity College Dublin have panned the argument made by a campus newspaper, the University Times, that it was within its legal rights to bug a student’s apartment in pursuit of a story.

Writing in the flagship Trinity News student paper, professors Neville Cox, Oran Doyle and David Kenny say that placing a dictaphone outside a student’s residence in a bid to record a society “hazing” ritual was a potential breach of the right to privacy and not “legally or constitutionally protected”. The academics say that one of their number is advising the bugging victim, who is head of an all-male sports fraternity now under investigation over the allegations.

But it has emerged that another Trinity law professor is backing the rival camp. Eoin O’Dell, an Oxford and Cambridge graduate, says that he is advising the University Times and has penned a rival legal opinion, calling his colleagues’ analysis “incomplete”.

The row began when the University Times, which is backed by the students’ union, began an investigation into allegations that new members of an exclusive society for top university sportsmen were being “hazed”. The paper had previously reported that members of the uni boat club were being forced to strip to their underwear and hit with bamboo sticks while drinking heavily.

Enterprising student reporters snuck into the halls where the society’s initiation was taking place and “heard groaning, gagging and retching sounds emerging from the apartment”. The paper breathlessly revealed that “those present were also told to eat butter”.

But the budding journos also put a dictaphone outside the apartment door in a bid to record the alleged hazing. Furious society members discovered and kept the device, which Trinity News condemned as an invasion of privacy. The bungled bugging triggered a university investigation and a petition to cut the newspaper’s funding. Students will vote on the proposal next month.

The University Times claimed that its methods were in line with Irish law, but professors Cox, Doyle and Kenny disagreed. Addressing the paper’s argument that bugging someone’s home is permitted if in the public interest, the academics wrote:

“This would be huge, if true. Journalists could invoke the public interest to set aside all other legal and constitutional rights. College officials in their offices, academics meeting students, students in their residences: all would be legally powerless to prevent their conversations and activities being covertly, or indeed openly, recorded if a public interest were involved… Unsurprisingly, this is not the legal position.”

Fellow professor O’Dell hit back, arguing that “this newspaper and its journalists have acted ethically throughout. Revelation of the Knights’ hazing was clearly in the public interest in college, and the Cogley case clearly justifies its publication”.

The Cambridge PhD holder concluded:

“This all reminds me of the old joke: how many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb? Four. One to change it, and three to disagree with what the first one is doing.”

The campus kerfuffle has made national news in Ireland and attracted the attention of the International Federation of Journalists.

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18 Comments

Anonymous

Yawn………………..
Rich kids fooling about!

(4)(1)

Anonymous

It’s all about the Erasmus year in Florence for these twats

No deal

(3)(0)

Anonymous

“Gagging” ??? Hardly on butter ?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

God Trinity Dublin trying to be OXFORD or Princeton, they really should get a grip of themselves rather than of each other.

(0)(2)

Anonymous

Interesting. I wonder whether the student reporters were entitled to enter the halls where they recorded. If so, and they remained in the common areas, that’s a big difference from a journalist entering someone’s house.

(3)(1)

Puffer

Lads gonna lad.

Total nonstory

(7)(5)

Anonymous

Can’t wait for the movie/documentary on this to be released in a few years…

(2)(0)

Anonymous

sounds like a story of someone being jealous they weren’t allowed to join.

(11)(2)

Anon

Absolutely. Social media has made FOMO much bigger than ever.

So sad that these losers playing ‘pretend journalist’ looking for the next Watergate weren’t out getting laid/having a life like everyone else at uni

(11)(4)

Anonymous

Can’t believe all these defences of hazing. I was teaching at a US university when a boy died in an initiation ceremony. Tragic and pointless. It’s all too common and certainly should be eliminated.

(8)(7)

Anonymous

Pipe down snowflake. If its consensual then it shouldn’t be an issue. Of course it is tragic where someone has died, but this is going to the be exceptional case rather than the rule. We shouldn’t get drawn into the trap of having to “eliminate” everything that might cause a small number of individuals harm (or offence) at the expense of others.

(13)(6)

Get Real

Down voter currently melting as a result of exposure to real life away from health and safety obsessed fun sponge enablers.

(6)(3)

Anonymous

Totally agree. Society shouldnt be required to legislate for all circumstances where common sense should prevail.

“Ah! I stood on a plug and hurt my foot. I should “eliminate” all plugs which could be harmful in the future.” Pathetic.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Totally agree with you. Hazing is downright stupid. Looks like there’s a ton of juvenile big dick-swingers here.

(6)(5)

Obvs

Whether it is “stupid” or not is irrelevant. There are many things which some would categorise as “stupid” but which are not illegal.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

What bollocks.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Yes, there’s a lot of them hanging out during hazing ceremonies …

(1)(0)

Anonymous

“…sneaked…”

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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