Byrne and McCutcheon on the Irish Legal System, Raymond Byrne, Paul McCutcheon, Laura Cahillane and Emma Roche-Cagney, (Seventh Edition, Bloomsbury, 2020)

AuthorMary Laffoy
PositionFormer judge of the Supreme Court and President of the Law Reform Commission
[2021] Irish Judicial Studies Journal Vol 5(1).
Raymond Byrne, Paul McCutcheon, Laura Cahillane and
Emma Roche-Cagney, Byrne and McCutcheon on the Irish
Legal System
(7th edn,
Bloomsbury Professional 2020), ISBN
Author: The Hon. Mary Laff oy, former judge of the Supreme Court and President of the Law Ref orm
It probably rarely happens that when working on a book review for publica tion in a journal
one is reminded about the journal’s history. However, in Chapter 4 (The Court System, the
Judiciary and Administration of the Courts Service ) of Byrne and McCutcheon on the Irish Legal
System, one is reminded that the Judicial Studie s Institute was esta blished under the Court
and Court Officers Act 1995. In 200 1, it establi shed the Judicial Studies Institute Journal
aimed at the Judiciary, which after a gap of seven years without any edition being published,
was relaunched in 2 017 as the Irish Judicial Studies Journal.
That welcome reminder is
indicati ve of the volume of information and the level of detail in relation to our legal system
contained in the seventh edition of this leading publication on the Irish Legal Syste m.
Of course, while the text of this book, containing 17 chapters and stretching over 948 pages,
can easi ly accommodate much detailed information, which is most helpful, what is of more
significance is the author’s analysis of the nature and features of our legal syst em as it has
developed over nearly nine centuries to the stat us quo in 2020, recognising at the same time
the impact and lik ely future impact of recent events, for example, Brexit and the Covid -19
pandemic, on our legal system.
It is worth recording that in Chapter 1 (Introduction to the Irish Legal System) , the authors
state that their study is primarily functional in that it concentrates on the relat ionship
between le gal institutions and sources of law .
The a uthors further state that they
concentrate on the processes of law-making and adjudicating which are central to the legal
system and which a re the reality of a lawyer’s professional life .’
Indeed, they might have
added that those processes are also the reality of the role and duty of a judge. However, the
authors emphasise the i mportance of being aware of the wider context in which the l aw
operates. In Chapter 1 , they set out a jurisprudential overview. They then a ddress a major
theme in jurisprudence , namely, the rel ationship between law and morality.
Their analysis
of that topic is largely focused on what became known as the Hart Devlin debate the 1960s.
Even for those who, like me, have given little or no thought to the t opic since their college
days (in my case since the lectures on jurisprudence delivered by Professor John Kelly in
UCD in 1968 and 1969), the author’s observations on the topic will be of i nterest. Having
observed that the years following the Hart Devlin debate witnessed a general liberalisation
of the criminal law, especially in regard to matters that might be considered to lie within the
Raymond Byrne, Paul McCutcheon, Laura Cahillane and Emm a Roche-Cagney, Byrn e and McCutch eon on the
Irish Legal System (7th edn, Bloom sbury Professional 2020), para 4.168.
ibid para 1. 03
(n 1) para 1.03.
ibid para 1. 48.

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