NOT before time, a Judicial Council been established. It was one of the last acts of Charlie Flanagan’s tenure as Minister for Justice, but was overshadowed by another one of his – the proposal to hold a commemoration service for members of the RIC and DMP who died during the War of Independence a hundred years ago, but which was hastily dropped after a huge populist outcry against it.
His establishing of a Judicial Council is a major landmark development in the history of the Irish judiciary, formalising a number of very important judicial functions. These include provision for the continuing education of judges through the Judicial Studies Committee; the creation of guidelines for awards in personal injuries cases through the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee; the creation of sentencing guidelines through the Sentencing Guidelines Committee; the creation of a judicial code of conduct and the introduction of mechanisms for dealing with complaints.
All 168 members of the judiciary, from the District Court to the Supreme Court, are members of the Judicial Council and it is hoped that the guidelines will help the relevant members to make personal injuries and other compensation case awards that are fair and proportionate, and that may ultimately lead to a reduction in insurance premia.
It is good to note that the Sentencing Guidelines Committee will have the job of preparing guidelines to which a judge must adhere unless he or she is satisfied that to do so would not be in interests of justice. And, if a judge does depart from them, the reason why, must be given in the judgment, reassuring the public that, not only is justice being done, but it is being seen to be done, all of the time.