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'The Terror of Their Lives': Irish Jurors’ Experiences

Law and History Review, 2011

45 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2011  

Niamh Howlin

Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin

Date Written: June 30, 2010


The Irish jury system (and the wider justice system) in the nineteenth century operated under significant pressures, and Irish juries were often portrayed as unreliable, ignorant, perverse and easily manipulated. At times of political turmoil it could prove difficult even to empanel a jury, and during certain fraught periods attempts were made to do away with jury trial in certain types of sensitive criminal cases. In this article an attempt is made to look at those men who were called upon to sit on juries in civil and criminal cases. Using a variety of previously unsynthesised sources, it paints a picture of jury service as an inconvenient, uncomfortable, overly-frequent, and at times, dangerous activity. Although not an area to which much attention has hitherto been devoted, this article aids our understanding of how the system of trial by jury – and, by extension, the system of justice – operated in Ireland during the difficult years of the long nineteenth century. Because Ireland represented one of the first adventures of the common law, the problems experienced with jury trials in Ireland were often forerunners of problems later experienced in other common law jurisdictions. This article may help to clarify the reasons behind certain jury developments in countries other than Ireland, and stimulate further research and debate on the wider issues of transplanting legal systems and institutions.

Keywords: Irish Jury, Commonwealth Jury, Trial, Juror Payment, Juror Accommodation, Juror Intimidation, Legal History, Criminal Procedure

Suggested Citation

Howlin, Niamh, 'The Terror of Their Lives': Irish Jurors’ Experiences (June 30, 2010). Law and History Review, 2011. Available at SSRN:

Niamh Howlin (Contact Author)

Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin ( email )



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