Statement by AJI on GRECO findings 05.07.2018

Statement in response to the Fourth Evaluation Round Interim Compliance Report on  Ireland published by the Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO)

The Association of Judges of Ireland (AJI) notes and welcomes the Fourth Evaluation Round Interim Compliance Report on Ireland (the report) published this afternoon by the Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) in which it expresses the significant concerns it has about the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.

We note that GRECO questions whether the proposed composition of the appointments commission as proposed in the Judicial Appointments Bill is in line with European standards (and in particular Recommendation CM/Rec (2010) 12 adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 17, November 2010) which, in situations where final judicial appointments are taken by the executive, calls for an independent authority drawn in substantial part from the judiciary to be authorised to make recommendations or opinions prior to such appointments.

In particular, in paragraph 35 of the report, GRECO has expressed significant concerns “about the composition of an appointments commission as proposed in the Judicial Appointments Bill (as amended on 31 May 2018), which would place judges in a clear minority position in favour of a strong lay representation (including the chairperson), accountable to Parliament.”

We further note GRECO’s view that, as far as the composition of the appointments commission is concerned, the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill needs to reflect the aforementioned European standards.

In his response published today the Minister for Justice and Equality has asserted that “there will be a very strong judicial presence on this body, along with a lay majority of suitably qualified and carefully selected individuals. The Public Appointments Service will select individuals with the skills and expertise needed to carry out this very important function. I am confident that the appointment to the Commission of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, along with the Presidents of the four other courts will represent a substantial judicial representation on this body.”

The AJI wishes to express its disappointment that the Minister’s response fails to address the particular concern expressed in para 35 of the report.

GRECO has urged the relevant authorities in Ireland to reconsider the proposed measure in order to limit potential risks of improper influence from the executive/political power over the process of appointments to the judiciary and to do so in close co-operation with the judicial authorities.

The AJI echoes GRECO’s call for a re-consideration of the proposed measure and in furtherance of their recommendation for close co-operation we wish to emphasise that we are available to the Minister at all times for the purposes of consultation in any such reconsideration.

In that regard, we note and welcome the Minister for Justice’s commitment, expressed yesterday in Seanad Eireann, to have continuing regular engagement with the AJI, and to engage with the judiciary in a way that is transparent and ensures that the government is aware of concerns on the part of the judiciary.