Call for Papers – Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights Post-graduate Conference 2011

The Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights at University College Cork is pleased to announce its fifth Annual Postgraduate Conference which will take place on Thursday, 28th April, 2011.  The conference is aimed at those who are undertaking postgraduate research in the areas of criminal law, criminal justice and human rights.  The Organising Committee is particularly eager to incorporate multi-disciplinary perspectives. Abstracts are welcome from scholars from disciplines outside of law (such as politics, social studies, sociology and philosophy, for example) who are working on related topics. 
The theme for this year’s event is “Human Rights Protection and Criminal Justice in the Age of Crisis”. The aim is to reflect upon the impact of crises on fundamental rights protection and the criminal law.  We hope that this theme will encourage debate on the challenging and complex questions which arise in turbulent times. We are especially interested in papers that relate to human rights, criminal justice, criminal law or the intersection of these fields.  However, we also welcome papers dealing with issues outside these areas that fall within the broader theme of the conference.  Papers will be streamed thematically.  Anticipated sessions include “Contemporary Discourse in Criminal Law”, “Civil Liberties, Technology and State Security Claims” and “International Law, Human Rights and Development Policy”.  Session titles will be finalised based on submissions, and the Committee also invites proposals for additional streams.
This international one-day event has attracted promising research scholars from Ireland, the UK and Europe in the areas of law, politics, philosophy and the related social sciences. This year’s conference aims to build on this success. A report on last years conference – “Borders of Justice: Locating the Law in Times of Transition” – can be found here.

Details of the keynote speaker will follow shortly.

Please submit an abstract (max. 300 words) to the organising committee by Friday 18th February 2011. Successful conference submissions will be notified by Friday, 4th March 2011.

Submissions and further enquiries should be directed to

Call for papers – ISCL annual conference 2011

The ISCL Annual Conference will take place on 29-30 April 2011 in University College Dublin School of Law. The Society is therefore seeking proposals particular those which place Irish law (in either part of Ireland) in a comparative dimension. however,  the conference is also open to comparative analyses from other legal systems. Any topic in comparative law or legal systems may be proposed: private or public law, criminal law and criminal justice, legal education, legal history, etc. Papers on European or international law will also be considered.

The society is looking for short proposals of around 250 words which should be sent to by 21st February 2011.

Child Law Clinic launched by UCC Law Faculty

Dr Ursula Kilkelly, Faculty of Law, UCC

A new initiative at the Law Faculty at University College Cork hopes to lead the way in using the law to bring about reform in child law and policy. The Child Law Clinic was developed with partners at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University in Philadelphia where, like many US law schools, clinical education forms an integral part of the student experience. The aim of the Child Law Clinic at Cork is to give students experience working on practical legal issues affecting children, and ‘real’ cases about to or already being litigated in the courts. It puts the considerable research expertise and experience of graduate law students and Law Faculty members at the disposal of legal professionals and thereby aims to improve the quality of litigation in children’s cases.

There is relatively little public interest law practised in Ireland and even less in children’s cases. Yet there are many aspects of child law and policy worthy of challenge and strategic litigation can play an influential role in bringing about improvements in the way in which children are treated. As organisations like the Children’s Law Centre in Belfast and Juvenile Law Centre in Philadelphia show, initiating legal action can focus attention on a particular legal issue and bring about change on behalf of individual or groups of children. In some cases, this can have a wider and more immediate effect than reform brought about through traditional campaigning and lobbying activities. Juvenile Law Centre for example has introduced amicus curiae briefs in multiple cases involving children at both state and federal levels in the US and has played a crucial role in the US Supreme Court decisions to find unconstitutional the eligibility of children for the sentences of the death penalty and life without parole in non-homicide cases. They also play an important role in the monitoring of courts’ treatment of children and were at the centre of the exposure of corruption in the so-called ‘Cash for Kids’ scandal in Luzerne County (see earlier CCJHR blog entry). JLC also undertakes appellate work challenging decisions of significance to children and it is here that the Child Law Clinic at UCC hopes to make an impact. It hopes also to focus public attention on the ‘big picture’ issues of child law and policy, and support lawyers to co-ordinate their efforts in the representation of individual children, to the benefit of all children.

High Court Makes Order to Protect Child against Parental Religious Views

Dr Conor O’Mahony, Faculty of Law, UCC

Over the Christmas holidays – 2.30 am on the morning of December 27 to be precise – Mr Justice Hogan of the High Court granted an order authorising the administration of a blood transfusion to a 4 month old baby against the religiously-based objections of his Jehovah’s Witness parents. This is not the first time that this has occurred, but what makes it particularly noteworthy is that it is the first time that an emergency order of this kind has been followed by a written judgment, which Hogan J issued on January 12. The case raises important issues with respect to both Article 44 of the Constitution, which protects freedom of religion, and Articles 41 and 42 of the Constitution, which protect family autonomy and delineate the power of the State to intervene in family affairs so as to protect children whose welfare is at risk. In light of the long-awaited referendum on children, this judgment is most topical.

Article 42.5 permits State intervention in “exceptional cases” where parents fail in their duties for physical or moral reasons. Previous case law – namely the Baby Ann case in 2006 – has stressed that “physical” reasons involve matters outside of the parent’s control, while “moral” reasons involve culpability or blameworthiness on the part of the parents. Hogan J was careful to point out that in this case, the parents were wholesome and upright, and deeply concerned for their child’s welfare, but steadfast in their religious belief. Accordingly, he agreed with an earlier judgment in which Bermingham J had commented that the use of the word “failure” is somewhat unfortunate in Article 42.5, since the parents at all times felt that they were acting conscientiously in accordance with their religious views. This is an interesting observation in light of the fact that the proposed amendment (as of February 2010 – but publication of an amended version is pending) to Article 42.5, while removing the words “exceptional” and “duty”, retains the concept of failure in responsibility.

Nonetheless, in spite of the conundrum this issue presents, Hogan J ruled that “[t]he test of whether the parents have failed for the purposes of Article 42.5 is, however, an objective one judged by the secular standards of society in general and of the Constitution in particular, irrespective of their own subjective religious views.” Relying on the standard set down in the PKU case in 2001 that State intervention would be justifiable where there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury, Hogan J ruled that the religious freedom of the parents, and their autonomy as a constitutionally protected family, gave way to the need to protect the life of the child:

“The State has a vital interest in ensuring that children are protected, so that a new cohort of well-rounded, healthy and educated citizens can come to maturity and are thus given every opportunity to develop in life. This interest can prevail even in the face of express and fundamental constitutional rights. … Given that Article 40.3.2 commits the State to protecting by its laws as best it may the life and person of every citizen, it is incontestable but that this Court is given a jurisdiction (and, indeed, a duty) to override the religious objections of the parents where adherence to these beliefs this would threaten the life and general welfare of their child.”

This is a significant and welcome decision insofar as it finally clarifies this point in the form of a written judgment. The PKU case had not involved religious objections (and the risk to the child was not found to be serious enough to justify intervention), and the last major written judgment on the issue of Jehovah’s witnesses and blood transfusions, Fitzpatrick v K in 2008, was decided on grounds of lack of capacity rather than religious freedom. Citing that decision, Hogan J remarked obiter that a properly informed adult with full capacity would be free to refuse medical treatment for religious or other reasons. Since the age of consent for medical treatment is 16 in accordance with section 23 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, one of the obvious questions that arises from this case is how the court would decide a case in which a mature teenager of 16 or 17 wished to refuse a blood transfusion on religious grounds or otherwise. Such a case could give rise to a variety of interesting issues depending on whether the parents supported the decision, and whether they were married and thus entitled to rely on the protection offered by Article 41 of the Constitution to the marital family.

In Memoriam: Alan Lerner

It was with great sadness that colleagues at the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights learned of the untimely death on 7 October 2010 of Alan Lerner, Practice Professor of Law at University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia.  Alan was an inspirational teacher, a passionate advocate for children and an inspirational colleague. He led the Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic at U Penn since 2002, teaching students in law, social work, and medicine to represent the interests of children in child maltreatment, disability, medical assistance, and special education cases. He was also co-director, with colleagues in Social Work and Medicine, of the Field Centre for Children’s Policy Practice and Research at an innovative inter-departmental unit at U Penn designed to promote collaboration cross-disciplinary solutions to children’s issues.

Alan was partner with CCJHR Co-director Ursula Kilkelly on a NAIRTL funded project to launch a Child Law Clinic at the Faculty of Law, University College Cork. This initiative arose out of a research trip to Philadelphia where as a direct result of Alan’s generosity, support and impassioned commitment to the provision of quality representation and advocacy for children, the decision to establish a Child Law Clinic at UCC was made. Alan’s input into these developments was instrumental, even throughout his illness over the last few months. We were very much looking forward to Alan’s visit to UCC to launch the Clinic and to his ongoing support for the initiative. Although saddened by his unexpected death, we will continue to develop the project in his memory.

May he rest in peace.

Irish Journal of Legal Studies to be launched today

A new law journal will be launched today in University College Cork.

The Irish Journal of Legal Studies (IJLS) is a peer-reviewed Law journal run by staff in UCC Law Faculty. It is an innovative on-line journal which aims at broad coverage of legal issues, national and international, both purely doctrinal and interdisciplinary. The journal looks to achieve a diversity of high quality discussion of the law from any angle. The journal is therefore seeking both commentary on current matters and more considered pieces.

The on-line journal can be accessed at

The first issue contains the following:

Sexual Violence: Witnesses and Suspects, a Debating Document
Justice Peter Charleton and Stephen Byrne
The Constitution and the Protestant Schools cuts Controversy: Seeing the Wood for the Trees
Eoin Daly
Managerialism in Irish Universities
Professor Steve Hedley
Antipsychotic Use in Nursing Homes: Human Rights and the Elderly
Dr Frances Matthews
Book Review: Alison Mawhinney, Freedom of Religion and Schools: The Case of Ireland
(Saarbrücken, VDM Verlag, 2009)
Dr Conor O’Mahony


If you want further information regarding making a submission or just want updates on the IJLS’s content then contact the journal at

The IJLS is sponsored by NAIRTL (the National Academy for Integration of Research Teaching and Learning).


Normal service will resume shortly

Regular visitors to the CCJHR blog will have noticed the recent lack of blogging activity. We have had some technical issues and have now migrated the blog to an internal UCC site. Apparently as a result we are first in-house UCC blog.

We will be working through any remaining technical issues and improving the look of the site over the next few days. Please bear with us as normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.