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Judicial Studies Committee

Updates on Judicial Training: last updated 2nd June 2022

 

The Judicial Studies Committee continues to deliver regular judicial training. Information in relation to current training and education programmes is below, including Judicial Conduct and Ethics, Avoiding Re-traumatisation, Unconscious Bias and Vulnerable Witnesses, Induction, Mentoring, Assisted Decision-Making and Training of Judicial Trainers.

Judicial Conduct and Ethics Workshops

Judicial conduct and ethics are recognised internationally as central to the judicial function. The Director has developed and facilitated regular workshops on this topic since early 2021 and has delivered over 20 courses to date. This included plenary sessions at the Judicial Council meeting in February 2022 and at jurisdictional and National Conferences. The delegates at each conference were divided into small groups and each group discussed several different potential ethical dilemmas for serving judges.  A nominated facilitator reported back to the main conference and the issues arising were noted and discussed further.  Central to these interactive workshops are the guidelines on judicial conduct and ethics adopted by the Judicial Council  with effect from 1st June 2022, and the Bangalore Principles.  

Judges attending the regular workshops are in groups of between 3 and 7 participants and the session takes place online. There is a structured discussion on each of the following:  Independence, Impartiality, Integrity, Propriety, Equality, Competence and Diligence.  In each section, judges are invited to reflect on relevant cases and to exchange information about experiences and hypothetical examples relevant to each of the principles.  The materials discussed are updated regularly in line with case law and with suggestions from participating judges and judges from other jurisdictions and adapted from materials used by the Judicial College in England and Wales.

 

 

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JSC Chairperson with members of the SSR (Dutch Judicial Training Institute)

Avoiding Re-traumatisation

This course is a workshop for trial judges which ensures that they develop a deeper awareness of the victim's experience in court in sexual offence cases. This was considered an early priority for the Director in response to the Victims Directive and the Criminal Law (Victims of Crime) Act of 2017 which implements the Directive.  It was also a timely response to the O’Malley Report. In July of 2020, the O'Malley Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences was published. This was a report prepared by a Working Group, chaired by Professor O'Malley, in which it was recommended that vulnerable witnesses receive better protection in court, including that training for judges in sexual offence cases be prioritised.

The Avoiding Re-traumatisation programme was devised in collaboration with the SSR, the Dutch Judicial Training Institute.  That body has extensive experience in judicial training and in particular, in training under the Victims Directive.  The SSR team first trained a group of 9 experienced Irish trial judges.  The focus of this training was to give judges a deeper and more realistic understanding of victims’ experiences in such cases and to explore ways in which the trauma which re-emerges for victims during a trial, can be reduced.  The training included consultation with, and direct input from, victims' rights organisations.  That pilot group of Irish judges undertook training aimed at reducing the trauma for victims, and they also received training in judicial training methods so as to enable them to offer the training to other colleagues.  The pilot group then, with continued support from their Dutch colleagues, went on to train over 30 colleagues, from different jurisdictions, in avoiding re-traumatisation for victims in criminal trials.  The programme will continue over the coming year and is open to judges who sit in criminal courts.

 

Judicial Training in Green Street Courthouse

Unconscious Bias and Vulnerable Witnesses

 This course begins with a presentation and discussion about unconscious bias; the way in which our brains develop to take mental shortcuts and how this can lead to bias in decision-making and in assessing people or evidence.  The presentation and discussion on the first day is followed by practical work on day two. The judges use hypothetical cases, designed in collaboration with the King's Inns, and intended to test the judges’ skills in identifying and reducing biases in court, however they may arise.  The practical examples include cases involving witnesses with various vulnerabilities in order to explore ways in which these might be identified and accommodated.  The aim of the training is not only to inform judges but to enable witnesses to give their best evidence by helping judges to identify potential areas of bias, to question and contradict stereotypes and to offer the judges a deeper understanding of people whose experiences are different from theirs.

                                                                                     

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Training for experienced judges                                           Induction Training

 

Induction training

Induction training was commenced by the Director as a priority in September 2020. This course provides practical training to judges before sitting in court for the first time, which includes the use of actors. Experienced judges join their new colleagues and address typical applications in various jurisdictions.  The new judges hear at least two different applications and discuss with their colleagues how best to address issues, deal with parties and lawyers, and manage court time fairly, courteously and efficiently.  Every judge appointed since September 2020 has taken this course. 

Mentor Training

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 Each newly appointed judge is assigned a more   experienced judicial mentor. There have  been 24   experienced judges trained for the purpose of   mentoring colleagues. While formally  selected and   appointed by the President of the relevant court, the   new judge is often asked if  she would like to nominate her mentor.  Judicial Mentors are trained to listen actively, to create formal meeting opportunities throughout the judge's first year and to enable the new judge to reach her own solutions to problems arising, while being supported by the mentor. The support is a formal, but individualised response to the needs of the new judges, both personal and professional, as they experience significant changes when they are first appointed.  The system has sufficient informality in terms of how it is implemented that it can be adapted to the needs of the individual new judge.

 

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Training in action 

 

Assisted Decision-Making

In May of 2022, over 50 Irish judges attended a series of lectures and discussions on Assisted Decision-Making in anticipation of the enactment of the relevant legislation.  Speakers included the President of the High Court Ms. Justice Mary Irvine, Mr. Justice Gerard Hogan, Professor Mary Donnelly, Professor Shaun O’Keeffe, Professor Amanda Phelan, Ms. Louise Loughlin, Ms. Aine Flynn, Ms. Alice White, Mr. John Cleere and Mr. Tom Clinch.  The purpose and the constitutional context of the legislation was explored, and various speakers addressed specific issues that will arise in the High Court and the Circuit Court when the legislation comes into force.  The presumption of capacity and the vindication of the relevant person’s rights was the focus of all presentations and further training follows when the legislation, currently being amended, is enacted.  It is anticipated that the second part of this training will include practical and interactive demonstrations of applications under the act. 

Training of Judicial Trainers

In September of 2021, November 2021 and January of 2022, over 30 Irish judges were formally trained, in separate workshops, in andragogical methods in order to train their own colleagues and peers.  This training in the education of experts was provided by experienced judicial trainers, from England and Wales and from the SSR in the Netherlands, who have designed the courses, in collaboration with the Director, specifically for the Irish judiciary.  

 

 

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The members of the SSR team (Dutch Judicial Training Institute)

who reviewed the Train the Trainers programme in Dublin

 

Judges from all jurisdictions are offered places on this programme.  During each of these courses, judicial trainers from other countries pass on their experience, techniques and skills to their Irish colleagues so that Irish judges can design, offer and deliver their own training programmes.  The next such programme will take place in September 2022.

 

Other Events  

Anglophone-Germanophone Judicial Conference. Over 45 family law judges and family law experts from Ireland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), attended over the 2-day conference hosted by Ireland on14th and 15th of October, 2021. The delegates approved the following Resolutions: Resolutions of the Conference.docx

 

About the Judicial Studies Committee

Background 

The provision of a modern training programme is an essential element in ensuring that the members of any profession deliver to their full potential. Prior to the establishment of the Judicial Studies Committee, judicial training was offered by hosting annual conferences and regular seminars and by courses provided externally. To a large extent, the premise was that a judge was sufficiently expert, on appointment, to carry out all judicial functions until retirement.  This approach has not inhibited Irish judges in carrying out their functions, but undoubtedly the approach to continuing professional development has evolved.

Since 1995, an applicant for judicial office must undertake to the Judicial Appointments Board that, if appointed, she will take such courses of training or education, as may be required by the Chief Justice or President of her court. The Judicial Studies Committee has created a new environment for the provision of judicial training and education.

A Judicial Studies Transition Group, chaired by Ms Justice Donnelly, met prior to the establishment of the Committee and produced draft Terms of Reference for the Judicial Studies Committee, to supplement s.17, which were adopted by the Council at its first meeting in February, 2020. Link here to section 17, and the terms of reference are available here:- Judicial Studies Terms of Reference .pdf     

The work of the Judicial Studies Committee

This Committee was established on the 10th of February 2020.  Its function is to provide for the continuing education of judges. A key approach to judicial training is that judges (insofar as is possible) train judges. Mindful of this international best practice, the Judicial Council specified that the appointed Director must be a sitting judge who would devote at least 50% of her working time to judicial studies.  In July of 2020, the Board appointed Ms. Justice Mary Rose Gearty of the High Court following a competitive interview process. In addition to a highly active committee, representative of each jurisdiction, this appointment has already proved to be a key step in identifying and meeting judicial training needs.

The Director and the Committee renewed and strengthened their engagement with international judicial training facilities and will continue to foster these networks and develop new allies across the world to facilitate co-operation at a global level.

The Director and the Committee have devised a programme for judicial training and, in collaboration with other judicial training institutions, have designed specific training courses in line with that programme.  The Director is in regular contact with judicial colleges in Northern Ireland, England & Wales and Scotland, together with the European Judicial Training Network. In her first year, in addition to other courses outlined, the Director focused on these urgent issues:

1. The Committee carried out an analysis of the training needs of the judiciary.  A large majority of the judiciary responded to the survey, indicating, amongst other things, their preferred content of training programmes and the method of delivery.  Most judges indicated a willingness not only to be trained but to undergo additional training (whether within or outside of working hours) in order to facilitate and develop the training of others.  The survey results informed the content of the four conferences held online in 2021 and will also be a vital component in the design of future conferences and training.  The needs analysis will be reviewed and updated regularly.

2.  The Director and 12 other judges have attended judicial training courses on the digitisation of training.  The Director has been in regular contact with judges from other jurisdictions in this regard as each jurisdiction addressed the challenges of transforming court and training practices to enable virtual hearings and pivot from traditional lectures and workshops to providing digital training.  In 2021, four judicial conferences were held online for the first time.  All enjoyed very high attendance rates with the full participation of all judges in attendance, in both questions and workshop discussions, throughout each programme.

3.  Throughout 2021, the Director worked with various speakers and bodies, for instance, international experts in child law and the senior management team at Oberstown Detention Centre presented a virtual tour of the facility and addressed key issues which arise when dealing with children accused of crime and senior scientists from Forensic Science Ireland made a presentation to a virtual meeting of criminal trial judges to explain their work and to take questions.

In 2022, an education and training specialist will be recruited by the Council to support the Director in delivering the ambitious programme planned by the Judicial Studies Committee and the Director.

 

The members of the Committee are as follows:

Mr Justice John MacMenamin

Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, (Chairperson)

Ms Justice Mary Rose Gearty, Director of Judicial Studies (appointed 30th July 2020)

Ms Justice Niamh Hyland

Her Honour Judge Mary O Malley Costello

His Honour Judge Paul Kelly, President of the District Court

Judge Marie Quirke