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Irish codification team facilitates the 22nd International Conference of the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law: Codifying the Criminal Law: Modern Initiatives (News Item)


The 22nd International Conference of the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law was held from 11-15 July 2008 in Dublin Castle. The Society is an international, non-governmental association of judges, legislators, lawyers, academics and governmental officials who have come together to work actively on the administration of criminal justice, both in their own jurisdictions and internationally.

The theme of the conference was “Codifying the Criminal Law: Modern Initiatives”. The conference took place against the backdrop of the Irish criminal law codification project. Arrangements for the conference were facilitated by the Irish criminal code team at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and University College Dublin. Mr Dermot Ahern T.D., Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, hosted a State reception in Dublin Castle on the opening evening of the conference.

The programme for the conference was drawn up by an Irish-based Programme Committee, chaired by Professor Finbarr McAuley, Chairman of the Criminal Law Codification Advisory Committee. The other members of the Programme Committee were as follows:
  • Mr Conal Boyce, Solicitor, Criminal Law Committee, Law Society of Ireland
  • Ms Valerie Fallon BL, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
  • Mr Paul Gallagher SC, Attorney General of Ireland
  • Mr James Hamilton, Director of Public Prosecutions
  • Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Supreme Court of Ireland
  • Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness, President of the Law Reform Commission
  • Mr Shane Murphy SC
  • Mr Paul O’Higgins SC
  • Deputy Commissioner Nacie Rice, An Garda Síochána
  • Professor William Schabas, Director, Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Mr Donald Sorochan, QC, Director, treasurer and member of the management committee of the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law
  • Mr Michael Staines, Solicitor
  • Mr Mark H. Tuohey III, Attorney at Law, Vinson & Elkins, Washington DC.
The conference attracted widespread interest and support from the Irish legal community and the various offices of State connected with Irish criminal law. The proceedings were chaired by the Honourable Mr Justice John L Murray, Chief Justice of Ireland. The opening address was delivered by the President of Ireland, Mrs Mary McAleese. The President’s speech can be viewed here.

The conference brought together delegates and speakers from Ireland, the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Europe. The conference examined the Irish codification initiative, differing approaches to codification in the common law tradition, the constitutional framework of codification, codifying the general principles of criminal liability and various defences and codifying the Special Part, with particular emphasis on homicide and sexual offences. In addition, there was a mixture of plenary and workshop sessions on various topics, including terrorism and the criminal law, drugs legislation, sentencing, victims and witnesses in the criminal process, dangerous and persistent offenders, mental disorder and the criminal law, young offenders and the criminal liability of corporations.

Several members of the Criminal Law Codification Advisory Committee presented papers at the conference:
  • Professor Finbarr McAuley presented a paper on the Irish codification process in historical context at the opening session of the conference. He also participated in the round-table session on codification and the plenary session on specific offences.
  • Dr Richard Humphreys presented a paper on “Drafting issues in gradual codification and the use of indicative headings”.
  • Ms Lia O’Hegarty presented a paper on “The Constitutional and Human Rights Framework for Codification of the Criminal Law in Ireland”.
Other Irish participants included:
  • Mr Sean Aylward, Secretary General, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
  • Mr Justice Paul Carney, High Court and Central Criminal Court of Ireland
  • Ms Justice Maureen Clark, High Court of Ireland
  • Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, Supreme Court of Ireland
  • Mr Justice John Hedigan, High Court of Ireland
  • Dr Harry Kennedy, Director of the Central Mental Hospital
  • Mr Justice Brian McCracken, Chairman, Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board
  • Mr Michael McDowell SC, Former Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform
  • Mr James McGuill, President of the Law Society of Ireland
  • Fr Peter McVerry SJ
  • Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy
  • Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins, Judge of the Court of First Instance of the European Communities.
International participants included:
  • Mr Damian Bugg AM, QC, Chancellor of the University of Tasmania
  • Professor Roger Clark, Professor of Law, Rutgers University
  • Professor Pamela Ferguson, Professor of Law, University of Dundee
  • Mr Justice Morris Fish, Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada
  • Lord Peter Goldsmith PC, QC, former Attorney General of England and Wales
  • Mr Justice Michael Kirby, High Court of Australia
  • Mr Justice Richard Mosley, Judge of the Federal Court of Canada
  • Mr Don Piragoff, Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice, Canada
  • Professor Paul Robinson, Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania
  • Professor Don Stuart, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
The Young Justice Professionals Symposium, which took place immediately before the conference, was also very successful. The symposium, chaired by Mr Justice Vivian Lavan, focused on the criminal justice system and the chronically mentally ill offender in an international and interdisciplinary context.

Receptions for delegates were generously hosted by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Law Society and the Bar Council.

Many of the conference papers are now available to download from the ISRCL website