Judicial Council Bill delayed because of ‘other pressing priorities’

Government minister Kathleen Lynch
Government minister Kathleen Lynch

The Government’s Judicial Council Bill has not yet been published because of “other pressing priorities in the legislative area”, senators have been told.

Government minister Kathleen Lynch, speaking on behalf of Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, told Seanad Éireann that the Department of Justice still believes an “alternative structure” needs to be put in place to investigate allegations of judicial misbehaviour.

Under article 35.4.1 of the Constitution, a judge can be removed from office for stated misbehaviour or incapacity if resolutions are passed by Dáil Éireann and by Seanad Éireann calling for his or her removal.

However, the Government is committed to introducing means to investigate or deal with “allegations which are not sufficiently serious to merit the invocation of the constitutional provisions”.

Ms Lynch said: “The current draft of the Bill provides for the establishment of a Judicial Council and Board that will promote excellence and high standards of conduct by judges.

“It will also provide a means of investigating allegations of judicial misconduct and, in this context, a Judicial Conduct Committee, which will have lay representation, will be established.

“Finally, it will facilitate the ongoing support and education of judges through a Judicial Studies Committee and through the establishment of Judicial Support Committees.”

A draft bill has yet to be published, but Ms Lynch said there was “no hidden agenda behind the fact”.

She explained: “It is a regrettable reality that the finalisation of the Bill has had to give way to other pressing priorities in the legislative area but the Government remains firmly of the view that it is of the utmost importance that this legislation be advanced within a speedy timeframe.

“I should add that the various drafts of the Bill have benefited from review by the judiciary who have considered it as part of the work of the Interim Judicial Council which has been established pending the Bill’s enactment.”

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