Judicial conduct and ethics guidelines to be adopted shortly by the Judicial Council will close a “gap in judicial accountability and transparency”, Chief Justice Frank Clarke has said.
Writing in the foreword to its annual report for 2020, Mr Justice Clarke – who is due to retire in October – said the establishment of the Judicial Council in December 2019 was “an important and historic occasion”.
He said: “Central to the Council’s functions is the promotion and maintenance of public confidence in the judiciary and the administration of justice in this country. In striving to attain this goal judicial excellence is key.
“As chairperson of the Board of the Council, I have witnessed the manner in which the judiciary has embraced the vision of the Judicial Council through engagement with its work programmes and the significant achievements of its committees in their first year.
“The Board, the committees and indeed innumerable judges individually, were actively involved in supporting the Judicial Council in 2020 and I am grateful for my colleagues’ engagement and commitment.”
He said draft guidelines governing judicial conduct and ethics and procedures for making complaints, including managing findings of misconduct, would be finalised by the Board “during the first half of 2021” and proposed to the Council.
Mr Justice Clarke also highlighted the work of the sentencing guidelines and information committee, which is now completing “wide-ranging and hugely significant work”.
However, he said judges could benefit the most from new support mechanisms, the “most significant” of which is the creation of a dedicated learning and development facility for the judiciary.
“We have long looked enviously at the offerings in this area provided in neighbouring jurisdictions and I am delighted to say that Ireland has now planned for, built the foundations of and commenced rolling out an education programme to judges which is fit for purpose,” he said.
Welcoming the report, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys said: “The ambitious programme of work carried out by the Council, and its Committees, to fulfil their mandate was done so diligently and to the highest standards in 2020.
“I am confident that the Council will continue to play a crucial role in ensuring the high levels of public confidence in our judiciary and will maintain the high standards of excellence for which our judiciary is renowned the world over.”