Criminal justice and penal populism in Ireland

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In constructing criminal policy the Irish legislature seems to be driven predominantly by a pragmatic and populist approach, in contrast to the rights-oriented jurisprudence of the Supreme Court. This paper describes the conflict between the courts and the legislature in relation to criminal justice matters in Ireland, particularly in the context of bail, the exclusionary rule and sentencing, and analyses the reasons for this divergence, drawing on the concept of penal populism. Although the Irish courts serve as a valuable bulwark against punitive populist policies, this paper considers if this failure to adhere to the desires of the legislature and to public opinion is anti-democratic. Furthermore, in assessing the apparent rift between the two arms of the Irish State, this paper highlights areas of criminal justice in which this conceptualisation of the legislature as punitive and the courts as rights-enforcing is unduly simplistic and possibly inaccurate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-573
Number of pages15
JournalLegal Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes

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