We use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage to improve and customise your experience, where applicable. View our Cookies Policy. Click Accept and continue to use our website or Manage to review and update your preferences.

Mixed views in judiciary on ‘bench book’ for jury guidance

22 Sep 2021 / judiciary Print

Mixed views in judiciary on jury guidance ‘bench book’

Some Irish judges have expressed their support for ‘bench books’ along the lines of the Crown Court Compendium, which provides guidance on directing juries in the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

Speaking at a webinar entitled Judicial Education and Training in 21st century Ireland (17 September), UCD law lecturer Dr Mark Coen said that Ireland didn’t have an equivalent centrally organised publicly-available bench book, though some quasi-official volumes were in circulation.

“There were mixed views on it, some thought it would be very helpful for newer judges,” Dr Coen said.

Others were more ambivalent, he added.

Others raised issues such as who would keep the volume updated, he said, and where this responsibility lies would require deliberation and thought.

A fear was expressed of over-reliance on a bench book, when judges should be basing their direction on their knowledge of the authorities.

'Therapeutic' courts

The webinar also heard from researcher Dr Jane Mulcahy (UL) that judges should “show more love” in their courts.

“Courts have an opportunity, I would argue, to become more therapeutic, and to actually be more loving … inside of chiding and shaming and blaming people, who have been shamed and blamed and abused and neglected their whole lives,” she said.

“I believe our judges need to show more love from the bench,” she said.

Researcher Saoirse Enright set out the case for formal judicial training on trauma-responsive judicial decision-making in Ireland.


Trauma-responsiveness is the adoption of practices that mitigate the effect of trauma or prevent it altogether, she said, by anticipating the experience of the other person and seeking to counter it.

This ranges from how judges communicate with offenders and victims, to the factors they consider when reaching a judicial outcome. 

A responsive approach requires an empathetic judiciary, without sacrificing the formality of judicial proceedings, she said.

A trauma-responsive judge will presume that all offenders and victims before the court have experienced some trauma, and will apply their training in how they facilitate courtroom proceedings, she said. 

Most trauma is alterable through human intervention, she added.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland