Retiring judge hits out over sentences criticism

A retiring judge yesterday criticised some sectors of the media for swingeing attacks on sentences imposed by courts rather than addressing the more complex area of reintroducing prisoners to society on their release from jail.

Judge David Riordan said the criticism of sentencing is a paradigm that may sell newspapers but does not make society safer — and may in fact create a less safe society.

Judge Riordan chose the occasion of his retirement from the bench to highlight difficulties associated with the reintroduction of prisoners to society after sentences. He said little attention was paid to the valuable work done by people supporting ex-prisoners trying to get back into society.

The judge said the prison system is the least visible part of the judicial process. He said sentences ending sooner than envisaged because of circumstances such as overcrowding may result in a prisoner not being rehabilitated from a drug addiction, not facilitated in getting accommodation, and without social welfare being immediately available.

Judge Riordan praised those groups working with prisoners on their release.

Tributes were paid to the judge from colleagues, legal practitioners, court staff, and those associated with the courts.

Donal McCarthy, a barrister and father of the Cork Bar, said Judge Riordan was ideally suited to being a Circuit Court judge having trained as a barrister, practised as a solicitor, and served first as a judge of the district court.

Terrence O’Sullivan, president of the Southern Law Association, said most importantly, Judge Riordan understood the concern of those appearing before him and showed kindness in the discharge of his duties.

Noel Doherty, a family law solicitor, said Judge Riordan always showed respect and patience and brought a wealth of experience to family law.

Chief Superintendent Barry McPolin spoke of the great service Judge Riordan had provided for the people of Cork ever since his appointment to the district court in 1995.

Pat Dawson of the Irish Prison Service, Sinead Carroll of the Probation Service, and Elisha D’Arcy, Mary Crowley, and Martin O’Donovan of the Courts Service all joined in congratulating the judge and wishing him a happy retirement.

Judge Riordan thanked his wife Patricia, court staff, judicial assistants Andrea Gilligan and Rebecca Moynihan, and Garda Denis Ring, who is in charge of court security.



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