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Judge’s praise for ‘impressive’ Law Society initiative
Pic: Cian Redmond

13 Jun 2024 / law society Print

Judge praises ‘impressive’ Law Society initiative

Ms Justice Elma Sheahan of the Circuit Court presided over this year’s Law Society Street Law mock trial, which was held for the first time at Dublin’s Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ) on 10 June.

The judge commented afterwards on how “worthwhile and impressive” she found the Law Society programme, run by regulation-department executive Mary Ann McDermott.

In DPP v Goldilocks 2024, the tipstaff led in Judge Sheahan saying: All rise – court in session – the honourable Judge Sheahan presiding”.

Judge Sheahan addressed the court and the registrar read the charges against Goldilocks, as follows:

The argument could be made that there was also a burglary contrary to section 12 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.

Ms Justice Sheahan welcomed the girls and explained that where there were children giving evidence via video link (as baby bear did) they should remove their wigs and gowns.

Ms Justice Sheahan also gave instructions on the manner in which barristers could ask questions of children giving evidence, and stressed that they could not ask leading questions or be harsh in their questioning.

She excluded baby bear’s chair as fruit of the poison tree evidence, as it had been tampered with in a garda station by a superintendent.

Rely on facts presented

After the prosecution and defence had rested, the judge directed the jury to disregard anything they had heard about the case, and to decide the case on the facts presented, and only on those facts.

They could not include any emotions they had regarding bears or any information they had discovered when googling Goldilocks, or anything they knew from fairytales.

In fact there was to be no googling, and anyone who did so would be held in contempt.

John Elliot, former Law Society Registrar of Solicitors, attended as a juror. 

One of the children showed their grandfather’s 1922 medal as one of the first gardaí of the Irish Free State. The judge explained that gardaí were often witnesses in trials as they were usually first on the scene.

The child explained that her grandad had arrested someone for stealing a bicycle many years ago and had to go to court. The judge explained that this would have been a serious crime some years ago as it might be the only method of transport a person had.

While the judge initially sought a unanimous verdict, she accepted a 10 to 2 majority and Goldilocks was set free.

She thanked the jury (made up of Courts Service and Law Society staff) for their time, particularly giving up their lunch hour.

Excellent defence

Ms Justice Sheahan noted that the defence was excellent for having proved that Goldilocks had been in the house of the bears many times and felt welcome there, thus throwing the trespass argument into question.

Afterwards the judge spent some time with the schoolgirls, explaining courtroom practice and encouraging them to consider law as a career in the future.

She noted that they lived in a country where they could fulfil their dreams through education, by working hard at school.

Judicial reasoning

The schoolgirls also do a class in judicial reasoning, whereby they must choose which of five candidates, all in equally dire need, should receive a donor heart.

The class is designed to illustrate the difficulties in taking so many factors into account when making a life-changing decision.

Mary Ann McDermott, who runs the Law Society outreach programme in her spare time, said that children of this age, fifth or sixth class in primary school, always chose the candidate who was a cancer researcher, and might find the cure for cancer someday.

This was because each of them had been affected by cancer in some way – whether it be an elderly relative or a sister, or even, sadly, a parent.

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