Immigrants in the criminal courts

AuthorDavid Riordan
PositionJudge of the District Court
2007] Immigrants in the Criminal Courts
At the outset I wish to point out that it is not the function of
the judiciary to make policy in the area of immigration. That
function is clearly the preserve of the legislative and executive
arms of government.
In preparing this paper I have set out to avoid repeating a
series of anecdotes which are, as we all know, the common
currency of Judges whenever they get together. I accept that
telling stories or relaying an anecdote of an experience can be a
useful method of communicating important information relating
to our work. However, anecdotes have a limited use in that they
cannot adequately map out the issues or set a fuller context for the
topic of this discussion, namely, immigrants in the criminal
Further, in discussing the issue of immigrants in the
criminal courts one needs to avoid the generalised complaint
about the lack of resources which might be deemed necessary to
deal with such an issue. Although sufficient resources are always
an issue when it comes to providing competent interpreters and
adequate court time to hear “immigrant” cases, such cases
invariably take longer to determine when compared with what
might be described as home-grown cases. I will return to this
element of the topic in a moment.
The issues and problems which may be encountered when
dealing with immigrants in the criminal courts might best be
recognised by Magistrates and Judges by reflecting upon the
general Irish experience of emigration to Britain in the 1950s, and
* Judge of the District Court. Article based on an address delivered at the
Cross Border Event, 2-3 March 2007, organised by the Judicial Studies Board
for Northern Ireland.

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