€1000 Wigs: A Day at the Criminal Courts

28 Oct

Last week Monday I attended at mobile seminar which took me and my peers on a tour of the Criminal Courts building in Dublin. The Criminal Courts building is brand new, built only in 2009! It looks super modern and some of us were saying the inside reminded us of the Ministry of Magic building in Harry Potter. 

Paddy, our tour guide, is a Barrister at the Criminal Courts. Ireland doesn’t have lawyers, they have Barristers and Solicitors. Barristers are self-employed and work for the courts. Solicitors work in their own firms and are hired by clients. The Solicitors then finds a Barrister to work with on the case. The Barrister never works with the client directly, always just with the Solicitor. Paddy worked in family courts, which deals with mostly divorce. To my surprise, divorce has only been legal in Ireland sine 1995. And now, to be granted a divorce, you must be separated first from your husband/wife for 4 out of the 5 years that you have been married. Isn’t that crazy!? Irish people tend to get married at a later age due to this fact because they must make a wise decision when getting married. 

The Barristers are required to wear these long robes like what they would wear in old days. These robes are very expensive, the cheapest being €200. It is tradition for the Barristers to wear wigs in the courtroom as well. A lot of the younger Barristers do not wear wigs, but more of the older ones still do. Apparently the wigs are mega expensive, with prices starting at €1000!!  And let me tell you, the wigs were not even cute…

Ireland uses the common law tradition which dates backs centuries. It is used by most former British territories including the USA. The Criminal Courts building in Dublin is the main criminal courts in Ireland. Most serious crime is dealt with here from all over the country. There three different kinds of courts: the high court (rape, murder, treason), the district court (1 year sentences), and the circuit courts. A lot of people say that Ireland mixes church and state too freely. Which I noted above when I talked about divorce in Ireland. 

Paddy took us into a real Irish courtroom and let us sit in all the different seats. I got to sit in the witness chair! He answered any questions that we had about the courts and Irish legal system. After that, we were allowed to go into a real live court case. I went into one that had the full set up. There were barristers, solicitors, a judge, a jury, a defendant, and a witness. The Barristers in this courtroom were wearing the wigs!! They looked so ridiculous it was hard not to laugh out loud. I snapped a sneaky picture of one of them even though I’m pretty sure photos aren’t allowed in the courtroom. Since they were in the middle of the hearing, I had no clue what kind of case I was listening in on. The Barrister was looking at a map of Dublin the whole time and listing off phone numbers…other than that I had no idea what was going on. I left soon after since I felt kind of dumb and it was hard to hear since they were not using microphones. Overall the experience was very educational and I enjoyed being able to sit in an actual Irish court room.

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