Time is Ripe to Boost Accountability of Judges says ICCL

  • 23-08-2010
  • Categorized in: Justice

Press Release, for immediate release

23 August 2010

Ireland's leading rights watchdog, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has given a cautious welcome to Government proposals to boost the accountability of judges.

The ICCL was reacting to the General Scheme of the Judicial Council Bill, published by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern today (23 August 2010).

If it becomes law, the Judicial Council Bill will significantly improve arrangements for the governance, education and accountability of the judiciary.  A new Judicial Council will encourage judges to endorse their first-ever code of professional ethics; a reformed Judicial Studies Institute will promote the continuing education of judges, and people will gain the right to complain about judicial conduct to a new Judicial Conduct Committee.

The contents of the General Scheme of the Bill echo detailed recommendations made by the ICCL in its 2007 research report Justice Matters; Independence, Accountability and the Irish Judiciary.

Speaking today, ICCL Director Mr Mark Kelly said:

“Reforms of this nature were first proposed by Chief Justice Keane over a decade ago and the ICCL is happy that the General Scheme of the Judicial Council Bill has finally seen the light of day.  The time is ripe for the creation of a body to promote the highest standards of conduct amongst judges and ongoing judicial education will be essential if those standards are to be maintained.”

“Judicial independence should not mean that judges cannot be held to account on those rare occasions when their conduct falls short of the highest standards. Independence does not imply unaccountability. People should have access to a properly-constituted complaints mechanism, such as a Judicial Conduct Committee, with appropriate powers.  However, the proposed procedures for initiating and conducting investigations (set out in Heads 24 and 25 of the General Scheme of the Bill) remain sketchy; and the lay members of this complaints body are to be Government appointees and will be outnumbered by judges (Head 20 (1) (i) of the General Scheme of the Bill). If people are to have confidence that, in future, complaints against judges will be investigated effectively, the Judicial Conduct Committee may require more robust appointment and operating procedures” Mr Kelly added.                                                           

Mark Kelly is available for interview and further comment

For more information, please contact:

Walter Jayawardene
Campaigns and Communications Officer
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
9-13 Blackhall Place
Dublin 7
Ireland

Tel. + 353 1 799 4504
Mob: +353 87 9981574
 
E-mail: walter.jayawardene@iccl.ie

NOTE TO EDITOR:

•             The General Scheme of the Judicial Council Bill was published by the Department of Justice and Law Reform today, 23 August 2010.

•             The introduction of a Judicial Council Bill, including an individual complaints mechanism against judges, is a key recommendation of the 2007 ICCL study Justice Matters. The recommendation stemmed in part from concerns expressed by judges during interviews conducted as part of the study. Justice Matters can be downloaded at http://www.iccl.ie/-justice-matters-independence-accountability-and-the-irish-judiciary-parts-1-and-2--%28july-2007%29-.html


o             The study recommended that a Judicial Council bill should provide for a Committee to consider complaints made by the public against judges; an informal system for resolving complaints; in investigative panel; sanctions, including reprimand, or removal; and further measures such as counselling and awareness training
o             It further recommended that a Judicial Code of Ethics should be drafted with the cooperation of the judiciary and formally adopted.

Press Release, for immediate release

 

23 August 2010

 

Ireland's leading rights watchdog, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has given a cautious welcome to Government proposals to boost the accountability of judges.

 

The ICCL was reacting to the General Scheme of the Judicial Council Bill, published by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern today (23 August 2010).

 

If it becomes law, the Judicial Council Bill will significantly improve arrangements for the governance, education and accountability of the judiciary.  A new Judicial Council will encourage judges to endorse their first-ever code of professional ethics; a reformed Judicial Studies Institute will promote the continuing education of judges, and people will gain the right to complain about judicial conduct to a new Judicial Conduct Committee.

 

The contents of the General Scheme of the Bill echo detailed recommendations made by the ICCL in its 2007 research report Justice Matters; Independence, Accountability and the Irish Judiciary.

 

Speaking today, ICCL Director Mr Mark Kelly said:

 

“Reforms of this nature were first proposed by Chief Justice Keane over a decade ago and the ICCL is happy that the General Scheme of the Judicial Council Bill has finally seen the light of day.  The time is ripe for the creation of a body to promote the highest standards of conduct amongst judges and ongoing judicial education will be essential if those standards are to be maintained.”

 

“Judicial independence should not mean that judges cannot be held to account on those rare occasions when their conduct falls short of the highest standards. Independence does not imply unaccountability. People should have access to a properly-constituted complaints mechanism, such as a Judicial Conduct Committee, with appropriate powers.  However, the proposed procedures for initiating and conducting investigations (set out in Heads 24 and 25 of the General Scheme of the Bill) remain sketchy; and the lay members of this complaints body are to be Government appointees and will be outnumbered by judges (Head 20 (1) (i) of the General Scheme of the Bill). If people are to have confidence that, in future, complaints against judges will be investigated effectively, the Judicial Conduct Committee may require more robust appointment and operating procedures” Mr Kelly added.                                                           

 

Mark Kelly is available for interview and further comment

 

For more information, please contact:

 

Walter Jayawardene

Campaigns and Communications Officer

Irish Council for Civil Liberties

9-13 Blackhall Place

Dublin 7

Ireland

 

Tel. + 353 1 799 4504

Mob: +353 87 9981574

 

E-mail: walter.jayawardene@iccl.ie

 

NOTE TO EDITOR:

 

•             The General Scheme of the Judicial Council Bill was published by the Department of Justice and Law Reform today, 23 August 2010.

 

•             The introduction of a Judicial Council Bill, including an individual complaints mechanism against judges, is a key recommendation of the 2007 ICCL study Justice Matters. The recommendation stemmed in part from concerns expressed by judges during interviews conducted as part of the study. Justice Matters can be downloaded at http://www.iccl.ie/-justice-matters-independence-accountability-and-the-irish-judiciary-parts-1-and-2--%28july-2007%29-.html

o             The study recommended that a Judicial Council bill should provide for a Committee to consider complaints made by the public against judges; an informal system for resolving complaints; in investigative panel; sanctions, including reprimand, or removal; and further measures such as counselling and awareness training

o             It further recommended that a Judicial Code of Ethics should be drafted with the cooperation of the judiciary and formally adopted.


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