Punishment in Modern Day Ireland

AuthorJohn Cronin
PositionBCL (Hons), LLM (Criminal Justice) 2008
(2009) COLR
John Cronin*
The Irish Criminal Justice system is a topic never far from the headlines.
Everyone has an opinion about it and the media are happy to fill page after page to
discuss in great detail the criminal issues of the day. Politicians too are more than happy
to offer their two cents as they are well aware that voters see crime as a key issue.1 But
has this resulted in a new way in which we view the offender and the way we seek to
punish them? Have we moved on from Garland’s ‘Modern Penal Welfare Complex’ to
Garland’s ‘Culture of Control’?2 Is there evidence to suggest in Ireland that we have
returned to a Victorian view of the criminal? Is there conflict between the legislature and
the judiciary?
Two terms that are central to this article should be defined from the outset to help
put the arguments in context. The first is individualism. Individualism refers to the
individuals faculties of will and freedom; an individual is in control of his/her destiny. If
this idea is applied to criminal law then the commission of crime is a choice. The second
idea that needs to be looked at is that of individuated justice. Punishment ‘is to be
determined not by the material gravity of the crime, not by the injury done, but by the
nature of the criminal.’3 Individualism is only concerned with what you have done,
individualisation and individuated justice requires the system to look at who you are. So
unlike individualism, individuated justice takes, arguably, a fairer approach to those who
come into contact with the justice system.
To determine how we punish in modern Ireland it is necessary to first examine
briefly how we have punished in the past. Garland would locate the formation of the
‘Modern Penal Welfare Complex’ in the brief period between the Gladstone Committee
Report of 1895 and the beginning of World War One in 1914.4 Other writers offer
differing opinions on when this transformation occurred5 but the introduction of a new
* BCL (Hons), LLM (Criminal Justice) 2008.
1 S Kilcommins et al Crime Punishment and the Search for Order in Ireland (Institute of Public
Administration Dublin 2004)133-136.
2 D Garland The Culture of Control (Oxford University Press Oxford 2001).
3 R Saleilles The Individualisation of Punishment (Little Brown and Company Boston 1911) 8-9.
4 D Garland Punishment and Welfare: A History of Penal Strategies (Aldershot Gower 1985) 5.
5 Foucault for example locates the origin of this modern system at the beginnings of industrialised society.
M Foucault Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Harmondsworth Penguin 1991) 19.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT