Ó Laoghaire seeks meeting with Minister for Justice on Judicial Bills
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has written to the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan seeking a meeting to discuss the Judicial Appointments Bill, and the Judicial Council Bill, and Sinn Féin’s possible support for these bills.
This follows the comments of the Attorney General regarding the Bill, who raised concerns regarding inconsistencies in the provisions of the Bill, and in particular, questions as regards its constitutionality.
The Cork South-Central TD said:
“It is clear, notwithstanding the context of the Attorney Generals remarks, that there are very significant issues in the Bill which require examination.
“For our part in Sinn Féin, we believe the manner in which judges are appointed, in a fair and independent manner beyond political influence, is important.
“However, clearly, we cannot support the passage of legislation which is unconstitutional.
“We are also of the view that the manner in which judges conduct themselves having been appointed to such powerful and esteemed roles is equally important.
“Therefore, we are also very anxious that the Judicial Council Bill is as strong as is possible in order to ensure oversight on standards and conduct of Judges, but also to ensure that justice is administered properly, fairly, and consistently.
“The recent open letter in the Irish Times from a victim of marital rape, in protest of a reduction of the perpetrator’s sentence, was absolutely harrowing, and deeply upsetting.
“It was clear that the victim felt that the judges did not take seriously enough the allegation of marital rape. In general, there are, I believe, significant issues relating to inconsistency, leniency, and light sentences, particularly relating to sexual crimes.
“The reality is that sentences are often handed down that are simply not appropriate to the crime.
“This underlines the need for sentencing guidelines and we have put down amendments to ensure that prison sentences are proportionate to the crime committed by putting in place a Sentencing Guidelines Committee.
“While the Bill contains reference to a Sentencing Information Committee, it does not recommend the drafting of guidelines, and as such will be far too weak and will not have the desired effect.
“It is not enough to simply reform how Judges are appointed; we need to reform oversight of Judges, and ensure consistency in sentencing.
“This is an historic opportunity to bring about real change in the accountability of the judiciary at the point of selection and in how they conduct their business while on the bench.
“Sinn Féin will seek to use our influence at this time to bring about the best possible outcome in the interests of the public at large and, in particular, for the victims of crime.
“We want to discuss these matters with the Minister, because we want to be constructive and work with the Government on resolving the issues and deficiencies in both Bills and to discuss Sinn Féin’s possible support for them.”