Friday 19 October 2018

'Offensive criticism' of Irish judge condemned across Europe

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Associations representing judges in Ireland and across Europe have condemned "personalised attacks" and "offensive criticism" directed towards an Irish judge by elements of the media in Poland.

One outlet described Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, who is openly gay, as an "Irish lesbian judge" in a headline after she suspended the extradition of a Polish man wanted for drug trafficking offences and expressed concerns about the rule of law there.

The High Court judge has sought a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union on the effect of recent legislative changes in Poland, which are widely perceived to have weakened the independence of the judiciary and public prosecutors office there.

Statements issued by the Association of Judges of Ireland and the European Association of Judges (EAJ) condemned "unacceptable" references to Ms Justice Donnelly's personal and private life.

"In a democracy any citizen is entitled to criticise a ruling of a court. However, the disapproval should not be addressed in a manner that encourages a culture of disrespect for the judiciary and, in any case, should never be directed at a judge personally but to the decision itself," the EAJ statement said.

Ms Justice Donnelly was criticised by some media outlets in Poland. One newspaper, 'Dziennik Narodowy', carried a headline stating: "Irish lesbian judge suspends the extradition of a Polish criminal because she is concerned about the rule of law in our country."

A news website, wpolityce.pl, also cited her sexuality in its coverage.

On Monday, lawyers for suspected drugs trafficker Artur Celmer opposed his extradition in light of recent legislative changes concerning the Polish judiciary, courts and public prosecutor.

Last December a parliamentary commission cleared the way for controversial new laws which would allow the Polish government to dismiss Supreme Court judges.

Ms Justice Donnelly suspended the extradition pending the outcome of a referral to the Court of Justice for the EU.

In doing so, she referred to a European Commission document, which she said set out, in stark terms "what appears to be the deliberate, calculated and provocative legislative dismantling by Poland of the independence of the judiciary".

It said the "constitutionality of Polish laws can no longer be effectively guaranteed" because the independence of the judiciary was "seriously undermined".

The judge also quoted from the findings of the Venice ­Commission, which has stated the merger of the offices of the Polish justice minister and public prosecutor general would result in the accumulation of too many powers for one person.

Irish Independent

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