On the 7th of February, the 1st Annual Round Table Discussion of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence Irish Chapter took place in Maynooth University. Members of the Court Service, The Judiciary, The Probation Service, An Garda Síochána, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Mental Health Lawyers Association, the ACJRD, the ICJDN, interested scholars and practitioners gathered to discuss the following: ‘Is there a Place for Therapeutic Jurisprudence in the Irish Criminal Justice System?’ The discussion was facilitated by Dr Etain Quigley, Maynooth University and Dr Blánaid Gavin, University College Dublin.
Dr Etain Quigley introduced therapeutic jurisprudence, stating that it is a philosophy that allows us to ask what we are trying to achieve through the law and how should we go about achieving those aims. She discussed the work of David Wexler and outlined that therapeutic jurisprudence offered a therapeutic philosophy that upheld and indeed relied upon due process as a central pillar. Dr Blánaid Gavin then gave an enlightening talk on neurodiversity and the different attitudes and assumptions towards people with certain neuro-developmental disorders.
Dr Darius Whelan, University College Cork, spoke about his research on ‘Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Mental Health Courts.’ Mental Health Courts, as a form of problem-solving court, have therapeutic jurisprudence as one of their main theoretical foundations. It was valuable to learn how therapeutic jurisprudence has been put into practice in certain jurisdictions, and to hear the successes and criticisms associated with this court model.
The final speaker was Dr Lorraine Boran who discussed ‘A Conceptual Analysis of Brain Pathology and Reserve in Determining the Legal Pathology – Mental State – Behaviour Relationship: An Examination of Criminal Responsibility and Sentencing in a Case Study of Acquired Paedophilia.’ This talk informed the group about cognitive reserve and the difference between high reserve individuals and low reserve individuals. The question was asked whether this reserve should be considered in sentencing, if courts are already considering a ‘reserve’ argument, and how neuroscience could work to inform this.
The group discussion focused on the justice/welfare divide that can exist in Ireland and the need for an integrated approach that upholds due process. There is a connectivity between restorative justice, therapeutic jurisprudence, and reserve that should be utilised going forward. It was noted in the concluding remarks that therapeutic jurisprudence involves engagement, shared understandings, and shared responsibilities between all who are involved in the justice process. All attendees agreed that therapeutic jurisprudence should form part of future policy and legislative discussions and the group has decided to meet again and involve more policy and departmental personnel going forward.