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Statement by Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, on the occasion of the first meeting of the Judicial Council

I very much welcome the first meeting of the Judicial Council this afternoon, an historic occasion that is over 20 years in the making.

The Council will be responsible for a number of very important judicial functions, including providing 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, and, importantly, the creation of Sentencing Guidelines through the Sentencing Guidelines Committee.

That 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. This provision will go a long way to reassuring all of us that not only is justice being done, but it is being seen to be done, all of the time.

The Council will also focus on the introduction of mechanisms for dealing with complaints against Judges.

It was a great personal privilege for me, as Minister for Justice and Equality, to have introduced this important legislation and I am confident that the Council will play a crucial role in ensuring the high level of public confidence in our judiciary and will maintain the high standards of excellence for which our judiciary is renowned the world over.

I want to thank and congratulate the Chief Justice, Mr. Frank Clarke, his predecessor, Ms. Susan Denham, and their colleagues in the judiciary, the interim secretary to the Judicial Council, and the officials in the Department of Justice & Equality who have worked very effectively to establish the Council since the legislation was passed in July. 

There is now an ambitious programme of work to be carried out by the Council, and its Committees, to fulfil their mandate. I have every confidence that this will be carried out diligently, and to the highest standards.