Secrecy over judicial misconduct hearings will lead to loss of public confidence

August 30, 2017

The public will only have confidence in the proposed new system for handling complaints of judicial misconduct if the outcomes of hearings are a matter of public record and the names of reprimanded judges are published, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD said today.

Deputy Shortall said the Social Democrats will table amendments in the autumn to the Judicial Council Bill 2017 which provides for a new complaints system in which hearings are held in private and reprimanded judges are not named.

“This long-overdue legislation is supposed to give confidence to the public that complaints of misconduct against judges will be handled in a fair and transparent manner, not cloaked in secrecy.

“In order for the public to have confidence in the system, the outcome of judicial misconduct hearings must be published as close to real time as possible and must include the names of judges who have been censured.

“For many other professionals including doctors, nurses, social workers and pharmacists, the outcomes of disciplinary hearings are a matter of public record – this is vital if we are to have proper accountability. Why should reprimanded judges be singled out for anonymity in this way, particularly given that a fundamental tenet of our legal system is that justice must be seen to be done?

“The secrecy clauses in this draft law negate the principles behind the establishment of a Judicial Council as a formal mechanism for the training and disciplining judges.

“The fact that the Bill also provides for 12 month jail sentence or a fine of up to €5,000 for publication of details of inquiries held in secret is a draconian approach which makes a mockery of the entire notion of reform in this area.

“The Social Democrats will be tabling amendments to address these issues when the bill comes before the Dáil in the autumn.”


30 August 2017