Barristers’ Term-Time Immunity from Arrest for Debt, 1860

From the Irish Times, 1 February 1860:

[In] Rubenstein v O’Hara… an application was made for the purposes of discharging the defendant, a practising barrister, from arrest [for debt]. The plaintiff… left home to attend the hall of the Four Courts [without an] actual brief, but in the course of the day, he was instructed by a solicitor to appear in a case that was then pending… before he actually received his brief the case was adjourned to the following day… he was then on his way home to his residence when he was arrested…

[Lord Chief Justice] Lefroy held that it was well established that a barrister attending circuit is privileged [from arrest for debt] from the beginning to the end of it, even though, in the interval, he should go back to his private residence.. [he] could not see any substantial distinction between a barrister attending circuit and a barrister attending the hall of the Four Courts.”

Mr O’Hara was consequently released.

For a nine-year period from 1860 until the Debtors Act 1869 abolished imprisonment for debt altogether, no Irish barrister attending daily at the Four Courts could be arrested for debt – during term time at least. The vacation time must have been stressful for some – maybe time to incur some more debt by taking a holiday abroad!

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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