Saturday 15 December 2018

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan hits out at 'personalised criticism' of extradition case judge

(Stock image)
(Stock image)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has joined judges across Europe in condemning personalised attacks directed towards an Irish judge by elements of the media in Poland.

Mr Flanagan was speaking after some media outlets highlighted the sexuality of Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, who is openly gay, in their coverage of her decision to refer an extradition matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union amid concerns over the rule of law in Poland.

“I strongly condemn the highly personalised criticism of a judge of the Irish High Court in relation to a recent decision to refer a matter in an ongoing case to the European Court of Justice,” said Mr Flanagan.

“The High Court is established and mandated by the Constitution of Ireland and our judges are expressly independent under the Constitution in the performance of their judicial functions.

“While freedom of expression is cherished in Ireland, so also is the independence of, and the respect due to, our judiciary.”

His comments on Friday came a day after associations representing judges in Ireland and across Europe condemned “offensive criticism” directed towards Ms Justice Donnelly.

One Polish media outlet described her as an “Irish lesbian judge” in a headline after she suspended the extradition of a Polish man wanted for drug trafficking offences and sought a ruling from the European court.

The High Court judge has sought a ruling from the European court 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 condemned as “unacceptable” references in some Polish media report to Ms Justice Donnelly’s personal and private life.

On Monday Ms Justice Donnelly suspended extradition proceedings in relation to a suspected drugs trafficker pending the outcome of the referral.

The man’s legal team has opposed extradition in light of recent legislative changes concerning the Polish judiciary, courts and public prosecutor.

The proceedings were due back before the High Court on Friday for the finalisation of question to be sent to the European court.

However, the issue did not advance as the Attorney General’s office is still working on the suggested question. Ultimately Ms Justice Donnelly will decide the precise question.

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