Subscriber OnlyCourts

Lawyers complain about court security after barrister knocked to the floor and a solicitor ‘slapped in the face’

Bar Council raises concerns about violence towards barristers and solicitors in a letter to Courts Service

A solicitor was “slapped in the face” and a barrister physically assaulted in two recent incidents in the family courts, prompting the Bar Council to complain about security in courthouses, correspondence shows.

In a November 8th letter, the chief executive of the Bar Council raised concerns about attacks on legal practitioners attending family court hearings in Dolphin House in Dublin. The correspondence, sent to the Courts Service, said there had been a number of violent incidents in recent weeks.

“One instance was where a male barrister was physically assaulted by a lay litigant and knocked to the floor. I am advised that he has since made a complaint to the gardaí. In a separate unrelated incident, a solicitor was slapped in the face by a lay litigant,” the letter said.

Ciara Murphy, chief executive of the Bar Council, which represent barristers, said several members had complained about the “ongoing issue of violence” in Dolphin House.


The letter, released to The Irish Times following a request under the Freedom of Information Act, was sent to Angela Denning, chief executive of the Courts Service.

Ms Murphy said the council had previously flagged concerns about security in courthouses in 2018 and 2019, following a “very serious situation” in Phoenix House, an apparent reference to a hoax gun scare during a family court sitting.

The correspondence said on foot of the incidents the council had highlighted “the lack of security” in Dolphin House and put forward several suggestions to reduce potential risks. These included a commitment that there was a Garda presence “in all courts”, or private security where gardaí were unavailable. The council sought an “audit” of all courthouses to identify possible security risks, she said.

Reforms to improve safety could include the installation of more security screening facilities, panic buttons in courtrooms and access to “time out facilities” for people to cool down, she stated. It was accepted that “not every scenario can be pre-empted,” but a plan should be put in place across the courts system on how to handle “situations that may arise,” she said.

“It would also be helpful to understand the limitations of the role and responsibilities of G4S security personnel vis-a-vis members of An Garda Síochána,” she wrote.

A spokesman for the Courts Service said on foot of the letter Ms Denning asked a senior official overseeing Circuit Court and District Court operations to meet the Bar Council to discuss the issues raised.

“Subsequently a meeting took place between representatives from the Courts Service and the Bar Council to progress actions in relation to our joint commitment to create safe spaces to work in,” the spokesman said.

  • See our new project Common Ground, Evolving Islands: Ireland & Britain
  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times