Alleged racism, lenient sentencing and favouritism among complaints made against judiciary

Alleged Racism, Lenient Sentencing And Favouritism Among Complaints Made Against Judiciary
Many of the complaints received by the Department of Justice claimed the sentences handed down for serious crimes were too lenient. Photo: Collins
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Muireann Duffy

A woman contemplated suicide following remarks allegedly made to her in court by a judge, according to documents from the Department of Justice.

Under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by, the department revealed that it received 37 complaints relating to members of the judiciary and sentencing practices last year, covering legal proceedings across all levels of the court system.


The department received 42 correspondences (including emails, letters and phone calls) on these matters in 2022, some of which were supporting materials while others were responses following an initial complaint.

As part of the FOI request, the department granted partial access to 31 complaints, while access to 10 further documents was refused on the grounds of personal information. Full access was granted to one document, which contained newspaper clippings of court reports of which the sender was questioning the sentencing rationale.

The two most common issues raised in the complaints were the leniency of sentencing for serious crimes and the conduct of judges.

Eight of the complaints received by the department were to do with the conduct of judges, ranging from alleged inappropriate comments made in court, to claims of favouritism towards certain solicitors.


One of the documents received from the department was an email from a woman in which she claimed she was “degraded” by a named judge during the trial of her son.

The woman explained her son was given a life sentence, and she alleged that the judge remarked to the complainant in court: “You are now the mother of a murderer.”

Each of the documents received under the FOI request was redacted by the department so as not to reveal the identity of the complainant. In some instances, the details of the proceedings referenced in the complaint or the complainant’s connection to the case are also redacted to ensure the complainant does not become identifiable.

'Cut like a knife'

“Since that date I have often thought of ending my life as [the judge’s] words cut like a knife,” the woman’s complaint added.


“The judges should not be allowed to say such things in a courtroom as personally I feel it is very unprofessional of them,” she wrote.

A separate complaint also queried whether a judge’s comments in court were appropriate, referencing a case in which a judge, handing down a suspended sentence to a man convicted of rape, reportedly told the perpetrator to “get himself a woman and start a family”.

Referencing a different case in which a person was convicted of domestic violence, the same complainant asked where the judge “got his crystal ball”, having said during sentencing that he did not think the accused would commit another offence.

The person further claimed the judge in question “has been letting perpetrators off with really light sentences for decades and nothing has been done about it”.


In another complaint, a person alleged that a named judge was being “biased, racist and clearly discriminative”.

Detailing their experience in court relating to a ‘family matter’, the complainant added: “Throughout this case, the judge has come out with what I believe to be racist remarks regarding to me being English.”

The complainant further alleged the judge has shown “clear favouritism” towards a named solicitor, claiming the judge allows that solicitor’s “theatrics”, sides with them, agrees to their requests, and gives them more time to “get points across”.

The person concludes that such behaviour “is not befitting a member of the court”, calling for the judge and solicitor in question to be suspended pending a “full and impartial inquiry”.



A number of complaints received by the department in 2022 also took issue with the sentences handed down by the courts, particularly relating to serious crimes, such as sexual abuse.

Many of the complaints criticised the length of sentences given by the courts, remarking that some sentences for serious crimes were shorter than those received by those convicted of more minor offences.

One such complaint said “justice isn’t being served”, comparing a suspended sentence handed down in a case of rape and sexual abuse in contrast to lengthier sentences received by some found in possession of drugs for personal use.

Similarly, a separate complaint sought an explanation as to why a man found in possession of a large quantity of cannabis had been jailed for 10 years (with the final two years suspended), while another man found in possession of a large quantity of child abuse imagery received a three-year suspended sentence.

“What I’m interested in learning is how the person with the child pornography images, who is more of a threat to the public and especially my two daughters, is more or less free while the person who stored an illegal substance is locked up for 10 years,” the complainant wrote.

The majority of the complaints regarding sentencing claimed judges were showing too much leniency to those convicted of serious crimes, with one complaint stating: “The root of the problems we face as a nation lies well and truly in the hands of the judiciary and the light sentences they hand down to the perpetrators of serious crimes.”

This complaint went on to call for the introduction of minimum sentences for serious crimes, a sentiment echoed in separate complaint which labelled Ireland a “soft touch” for “career criminals”.

While some of the complaints referred to high-profile court cases, one also made reference to Golfgate.

Judge ’emphatically rejects’ Enoch Burke accusatio...
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“Obviously we were NOT all ‘in this together’,” the complainant wrote, claiming a €500 fine issued to a man for having “8/10 people in his house” in February 2021 - when Covid restrictions were in place - “must be the greatest miss carriage [sic] of justice of 2021/22”.

“The injustice of 8/10 people [versus] 135 at Golfgate,” they added.

In October last year, new legislation was enacted by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee regarding complaints about alleged misconduct by judges.

Complaints about members of the judiciary which are deemed admissible are examined by the Judicial Conduct Committee, which has the power to reprimand judges when necessary.

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