Most Irish barristers experience aggression, threats or violence in their work

Most Irish barristers experience aggression, threats or violence in their work

Michéal P. O'Higgins SC

A majority of Irish barristers have experienced aggression, threats or violence in the course of their work, according to a new survey.

The Bar of Ireland surveyed 460 barristers last month in the wake of an incident in December which saw a man allegedly pull out a fake gun and hoax bomb during a family law hearing before Judge Susan Ryan in the Circuit Family Court.

The Courts Service of Ireland announced new security measures at Phoenix House in the wake of the incident.

Of the 460 barristers who responded to the survey, 53 per cent said they had experienced aggression, threats or violence in a court setting or as a result of court proceedings, whether in person or on social media, via text or otherwise.

Such experiences mainly occurred in cases relating to family law (44 per cent), criminal law (36 per cent), debt/repossession (32 per cent) and child care (12%). Less than seven per cent of those barristers reported such incidents to the Courts Service.

The overwhelming majority (81 per cent) of respondents said that an increased Garda presence in court buildings was an essential deterrent against violent, aggressive or threatening behaviour.

Writing in the Bar Review, Michéal P. O’Higgins SC, chair of the Council of The Bar of Ireland, said: “While the Bar acknowledges that in order to address security in all courthouses there is a resource implication in terms of Garda presence and the provision of screening infrastructure, the safety and security of all users of the courts, including judges, barristers, solicitors, staff of the Courts Service and members of the public needs to be prioritised and the appropriate level of resources should be provided.”

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