To Jail, or Not to Jail?

As I have previously mentioned in another post, the law is not as black and white as we students are originally led to believe. And to say that that has caused me a great deal of confusion is an understatement.

This week in Jurisprudence we covered Critical Legal Studies, which essentially took American Realism to a whole new level. The ‘Crits’ (as we refer to them) believe that the law doesn’t function and proceed to tell us every reason why without giving a solid, plausible alternative to the current system.

What I found most shocking, however, was the Prime Time Investigation called ‘Sentencing Judges‘ that we were shown at the beginning of class. This video served to highlight the disparities with regards to judicial sentencing in Ireland and the statistics they uncovered left me in complete disbelief.

For comparative purposes, they took two judges in neighboring districts and compared their sentencing rates. The first judge had a 96% conviction rate in relation to drinking driving offences…

The second had a 2% conviction rate.

If I were before the court on a drink driving charge, I know who I’d most like to be standing before!

Our lecture also told us a story about a District Court judge who handed down a six month prison sentence to a shoplifter. Why such a long sentence? The Judge calculated it by finding out how many anchovies were in the tin that had been shoplifted. The answer was six, a month for each fish.

Although this module is fascinating and challenging, it is also a bit unnerving for a student. Knowing the law is clearly no longer enough, one must know the nuances of the system in order to succeed. But at the same time, with my co-op placement in a firm starting at the end of May, I’m glad I’ve chosen to take this module now.


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