- Can the Minister for Justice and Equality intervene in relation to the listing of cases?
- Can the Minister review a sentence imposed by the courts?
- How are judges appointed?
- Can the Minister intervene in relation to a decision of a judge?
1. Can the Minister for Justice and Equality intervene in relation to the listing of cases?
The Courts Service was established on a statutory basis on 9 November, 1999 following the enactment of the Courts Service Act 1998.
Under the provisions of the Act, responsibility for the operational management and administration of the courts system, including the scheduling of cases, the processing of court documents, the management of court house facilities, the management of the Courts Service staff, etc. was transferred from this Department to the Courts Service. Consequently, the Minister has no function or power to intervene in such matters.
Under our legal system, legislation provides generally for maximum penalties for criminal offences. Sentencing is a judicial function and is a matter entirely for the presiding judge. The judge decides on the appropriate sentence, with reference to the penalties provided for by law, by reference to the conclusions he/she has reached after trying the case, hearing all the evidence and assessing the culpability and circumstances of the accused. The Minister cannot comment or intervene in any way in this process.
The question of whether a person should be prosecuted and for what criminal offence is the responsibility of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The DPP who is independent in the performance of his functions, makes his decision on the basis of the Garda findings viewed against the background of common and/or statute law.
The Criminal Justice Act 1993 provides that the DPP may apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal for a review of what appears to the DPP to be an unduly lenient sentence. The Minister has no role in this process.
The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board was established pursuant to the Court and Courts Officers Act 1995. The purpose of the board, simply put, is to identify persons and inform the Government of the suitability of those persons for appointment to judicial office. By definition, the board's remit is advisory. The ultimate decision as regards appointment rests with the Government.
The board consists of the Chief Justice, the Presidents of the High Court, Circuit Court and District Court, the Attorney General, nominated representatives of the Bar Council and the Law Society and three persons nominated by the Minister.
The courts are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. The Minister cannot comment or intervene in any way in relation to the outcome of court proceedings nor how a member of the judiciary conducts proceedings.