The Judicial Council Bill 2017 is currently progressing through the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Bill will establish a Judicial Council to promote excellence in the exercise by judges of their judicial functions and high standards of conduct among judges. A Judicial Conduct Committee established under the Bill will have a central role in considering complaints against judges and referring them either for resolution by informal means or for formal investigation. The Deputy will be aware that the Bill has completed Seanad Second Stage and that Committee Stage in that House is awaited. In the interim period a significant number of amendments have been developed in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General and have also been the subject of consultation with the judiciary. Those amendments, particularly those which relate to sentencing guidelines, will further promote confidence amongst the public in relation to how the courts carry out their functions, while not interfering with the scope of judicial discretion in a way that would be contrary to the Constitution.
Enactment of the Judicial Council Bill is regarded as a matter of priority for the Government and I am committed to making significant progress towards that enactment this session. In that context, I hope to table Committee Stage amendments to the Bill in the near future.
The establishment of a Judicial Council will undoubtedly be an important development but I do not believe that the non-establishment of a Council to date has had a negative impact on the courts system.