On Thursday, 6th June 2019, participants from across the UK and beyond converged on The Open University Law School in Milton Keynes to attend the first meeting of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence’s UK Chapter. With six diverse presentations coupled with lively questions and discussions, it was an engaging and inspiring day that hopefully marks the start of even greater things to come.
It was our chance meeting at the International Congress of Law and Mental Health in Prague in 2017 which led to the development of the UK Chapter – despite us later discovering we only live around 30 minutes drive apart in England! We both discovered a mutual goal of promoting TJ within the UK which led to us draw together a group of enthusiastic and like-minded people to work with us on forming the UK Chapter.
Whilst there has been much discussion in the USA, and elsewhere, about mainstreaming TJ, in the UK we are at a much earlier stage in the discourse. Although there are a number of academics and practitioners who have been working in this field for many years, amongst many there is still a lack of recognition and acknowledgement of TJ as a paradigm. We have explored some of the reasons for, and consequences of this in our recent paper for the Wexler Tribute Edition of the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry.
However, the range of presentations given at the meeting demonstrate much cause for optimism. Anna began by presenting her work on problem-solving courts in the UK, focusing on the Manchester Review Court and applying Wexler’s wine and bottle methodology to assessing its therapeutic quality. Emma related TJ to her work on the wellbeing of law students and legal professionals, emphasising its potential to provide a new lens through which to develop a more holistic form of legal education and training.
The focus then became more theoretical in nature, with Amanda Wilson of Warwick University exploring the challenges and opportunities offered by TJ’s breadth (with an emphasis on its application to the criminal justice system). Her paper emphasised the need for the further philosophical and theoretical development of TJ in a way which provided valuable criticality and rigour.
The most (literally) colourful presentation of the day was, without doubt, that of Richard Cornes from Essex University who spoke about his research using art to conceptualise the relationship between the courts and psychotherapy with a beautiful set of accompanying slides.
Later in the day, Carly Whelan of Cambridge University returned to the subject of the courts with a paper on ‘the use of Therapeutic Jurisprudence by Judicial Officers in mainstream Criminal Courts’. The particular focus was on interviews carried out with three inspiring Australian members of the judiciary into their application of TJ principles and values in their courts.
The sixth and final presentation, by John Stannard of Queen’s University, Belfast, on the concept of legitimacy explored public attitudes to sentencing in criminal cases. The role of the media in the generation, or influencing, of such attitudes was a particularly lively topic for questions and comments after his extremely engaging talk.
The day was rounded off with a discussion over the future direction for the UK Chapter with ideas for future events and initiatives to raise the profile of TJ in the UK. One of the most exciting next steps is a special edition of the online, peer reviewed, open access European Journal of Current Legal Issues on ‘Therapeutic jurisprudence in the UK and beyond’ due to be published Autumn 2021.
You can connect to the UK Chapter by emailing ISTJChapterUK@gmail.com.
 E. Jones and A. Kawalek ‘Dissolving the Stiff Upper Lip: Mainstreaming Therapeutic Jurisprudence in the UK’ 63 International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 76.