Friday 23 February 2018

Politicians, not legal profession, have hindered judicial policing

Emer O'Kelly welcomes the long overdue establishment of a judicial council and conduct committee

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has given only a "cautious welcome" to the announcement by the Minister for Justice that a Judicial Council and a Judicial Conduct Committee are to be set up. The council will promote "high standards among judges" and allow for "continued public confidence in judicial integrity".

There will be new guidelines for judicial ethics and conduct. Procedures will be created to investigate complaints against judges. There will be provision for carrying out investigations into the mental or physical health of judges, and sanctions will be introduced -- including a reprimand, or a recommendation that the judge follow a specific course of action.

So what's to be cautious about? It sounds like considerable progress, even for organisations like the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, programmed and required to be chronically sceptical and suspicious. It may have to do with a certain amount of chagrin. The ICCL published its own report, Justice Matters, in 2003 under the direction of Dr Tanya Ward, its Senior Research and Policy Officer, and the report, carried out in conjunction with the legal profession, called for the setting up of just such a Judicial Council.

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