Thursday 26 April 2018

Eilis O'Hanlon: It can be a short step from being imaginative to simply being cruel

Perhaps it's a good thing that our judges tend to be less creative than their US peers.

IRISH judges have been on the receiving end of an awful lot of criticism lately. District Court Judge Mary Devins, to name one, was roundly lambasted last year for referring to social welfare as a "Polish charity" (she subsequently apologised and withdrew the remark); while her colleague at Tuam District Court, Judge Geoffrey Browne, was criticised for referring to Travellers who broke into the premises of an elderly publican who then had a heart attack as "knackers", adding that "maximum force should be used" against intruders.

As for Mr Justice Paul Carney – who was recently taken to task for granting bail to an elderly man convicted of raping and sexually assaulting his daughter over a 10-year-period (he later apologised to the victim, Fiona Doyle, and reversed his original judgement) – his rulings and associated comments are rarely out of the headlines, perhaps unsurprisingly for a man who presides over some of the most high-profile rape and murder cases in the country. Carney has enjoyed the honour of simultaneously being accused of being both too lenient and too punitive, sometimes in the same week.

In that respect, Judge Alan Mitchell probably thought he was on to a winner last week when giving a teenage boy at Galway District Court 24 hours to decide which of his parents should be sent to jail in punishment for failing to make him attend school.

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