Call for change to judicial appointments

Thursday 30 January 2014 22.09
The committee said the principle of appointing a judge by merit should be established in legislation
The committee said the principle of appointing a judge by merit should be established in legislation

A committee chaired by the Chief Justice has called for the way judges are appointed to be changed.

In a submission to the Department of Justice this afternoon, the Judicial Appointments Review Committee said the system of judicial appointments in Ireland was demonstrably deficient.

It said the system must be reformed if it is to secure the selection of the very best candidates and contribute to the administration of justice in a manner that will sustain and enhance public confidence.

The committee said the principle of appointing a judge by merit should be established in legislation. 

As a matter of principle, it said, political allegiance should have no bearing on appointments to judicial office.  

Early acceptance of this principle was essential to a transformation of the appointments process, it added. 

Chief Justice Susan Denham said it was increasingly clear that the success of the administration of justice in Ireland had been achieved in spite of, rather than because of, the appointments system.

She said: "Public confidence that justice will be administered fairly by persons of the highest quality and integrity is vitally important in maintaining the confidence of citizens in the State.

"The judicial appointments system needs to change to ensure this is so, and is seen to be so."

The committee has made a number of recommendations. It said the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board should be reformed and developed.

The number of candidates for a single judicial post submitted by the board for decision by Government should be reduced to three.

The board should be allowed to rank candidates or to inform the Government if there are no candidates of sufficient quality.

The committee said the minimum periods of practice as a barrister or solicitor before being appointed as a judge should be extended to 15 years.

It has also called for a judicial council with powers relating to judicial representation, appointments, discipline and education to be established.

The committee wants specialist circuit court judges appointed to deal with insolvency matters to be converted into full judges of the Circuit Court.