Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Questions (255)

Michael McGrath


255. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when sections of the Judicial Council Act 2019 regarding the personal injuries guidelines committee will be commenced; the specific conditions that need to be in place before the sections are commenced; the reason the sections involving sentencing guidelines and judicial conduct committees have been commenced ahead of the sections involving the personal injuries guidelines committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39391/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Judicial Council Bill was enacted on 23 July 2019. This is a major landmark piece of reforming legislation which provides for the establishment, for the first time, of a Judicial Council comprising all members of the judiciary. The primary function of the Council will be to promote and maintain excellence in the exercise by judges of their judicial functions and high standards of conduct among judges. The Board of the Council will be responsible for carrying out the functions of the Council on a day-to-day basis.

I envisage that the Judicial Council will be established by the end of this year and a great deal of work is underway to facilitate establishment within that time frame. As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, this is a very ambitious timetable for such a significant new structure and it underlines the seriousness of the approach being taken.

Last month, I commenced a number of the Act's provisions under Statutory Instrument No. 457/19. These provisions concern the appointment of the interim Secretary to the Council, and the process of identifying and recommending to the Government, persons who are suitable for appointment to be lay members of the Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee, the Judicial Conduct Committee and panels of inquiry. The membership of other Committees such as the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee does not include lay members.

The commencement of these provisions will enable the Council to commence its work on establishment day and the Committees of the Council to undertake their functions within the time frames specified in the Act.

Committees of the Council will be established by the Council having regard to the timelines set out in the Act. The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee is to be established no later than 3 months after the first meeting of the Judicial Council itself, and that Committee is to meet no later than one month after its establishment.