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New body will ‘promote and maintain public confidence administration of justice’ 
The Judicial Council has been formally established in what the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, has decribed as a “landmark moment in the history of our State.” 
First mooted more than twenty years ago, the new body came into being with the signing of an order by the minister at a ceremony in the Four Courts in Dublin. The development brings Ireland into line with most other European jurisdictions. 
The council will play a central role in the maintenance of public confidence in the administration of justice, the Chief Justice Frank Clarke said at the ceremony. 
Training for judges, guidance in relation to sentencing and personal injury award payments, investigating complaints against judges, and a range of other functions are to be carried out by the council. 
The European Council’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) has previously criticised the failure to introduce a judicial council in Ireland, seeing it as a possible threat to the Irish judiciary’s independence. 
“The overriding function of the Judicial Council is to promote and maintain public confidence in the judiciary and the administration of justice,” Mr Justice Clarke said. 
Central to the delivery of the council’s objectives will be a number of committees, work on the establishment of which has already started, he said. 
The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee, which the Government sees as an important player in the effort to deal with the insurance crisis, will be the first of the council’s committees to be established. 
A range of sectors are hoping that the committee will introduce a regime of lower payouts in personal injuries cases. 
“It is worth commenting at this stage that the first meeting of this committee designate of judges occurred on December 2nd, which is eight full months ahead of the mandatory deadline set out in the act for the meeting of the formal committee,” the chief justice said. 
Mr Flanagan, who signed the order establishing the council said its primary function is to “promote and maintain excellence in the exercise by judges of their judicial functions and high standards of conduct among judges.” 
The first meeting of the council - which comprises all of the approximately 170 judges in the State - is to take place in the first week of February. 
A board is to be established to assist in the operation of the council’s functions. Among the committees to be established will be the Judicial Studies Committee, which will focus on the continuing education of judges. 
Traditionally judicial education and training has been unstructured. Judges have spoken of being appointed and being sent straight to court to carry out their new role, armed with their new judge’s notebook. 
“It is hugely important to provide appropriate supports for any person with a job to do. The judiciary is no different in that regard,” the chief justice said. 
Work to establish another committee that will be concerned with ethics, impartiality, codes of conduct, and a means to file complaints, has also begun. 
No Irish judge has ever been formally removed from office and the Constitution provides that both Houses of the Oireachtas must agree if a judge is to be removed. 
Because the Constitution reserves that role for the Oireachtas, the Judicial Council cannot remove judges, but it is able to investigate complaints against judges and publicly name any judge who is reprimanded. 
A Sentencing Guidelines Committee that is to be established will involve lay members and the procedures for independently appointing those members have been commenced. 
It is hoped that this committee will be in a position to be established by the council at its first meeting. The membership of the proposed committee has yet to be identified. 
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