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Judicial Misconduct Complaints Procedure Officially Launched in Ireland

By October 5, 2022 No Comments
Judicial Misconduct

As of today, members of the public in Ireland will now be able to officially launch complaints about the conduct of judges.

Judicial Council Act 2019

Under the Judicial Council Act 2019 (Commencement) Order, the remaining provisions for which have been singed on off by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, procedures will be implemented to enable complaints against what may be viewed as alleged judicial misconduct.

“Maintaining and strengthening public confidence in our judiciary, a foundation stone of our democracy, is crucial and I am really pleased to bring into effect all remaining sections of the Judicial Council Act 2019’, Minister McEntee said.

Part five of the 2019 Judicial Council Act concerns the newly enacted complaints procedure, as well as the role and scope of a Judicial Conduct Committee, the function of which will be to promote and maintain high standards of conduct among judges. Prior to this, there had been no available method for making a complaint about a member of the judiciary, nor any mechanism to ensure that an appropriate punishment was proposed.

Range of Sanctions

With the initiation of the procedure, however, potential penalties may now include a range of sanctions on such members, as well as the potential for the removal of a judge from office. The act will also require judges to provide and abide by new conduct and ethics guidelines in seeking to promote the highest standards of judicial behaviour in the State, as well as to form the framework for the nascent complaints procedure.

While the new system for making complaints will be a welcomed development moving forward, it was highlighted that the new procedure will not be retroactive, meaning that it will not deal with allegations of misconduct made against judges prior to its launch.

The lack of a formal complaints scheme gained notoriety during the ‘Golfgate’ controversy in August of 2020, during which time the then newly appointed Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe, attended an Oireachtas golf society dinner despite COVID-19 regulations prohibiting such gatherings.

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