A COUNCIL to deal with complaints against judges will be established this year, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan said yesterday.
Her comments came after a judge was criticised on Wednesday for jailing a man for only two years for raping a prostitute.
Mr Justice Barry White suspended three years of the five-year sentence received by Waterford businessman Billy Keogh, referring to the married father of six as a “man of good character”.
The judge said he was impressed by how Keogh re-established himself after losing his business in 2004 and acknowledged that he also had an elderly dependent mother and seven employees to support.
In the Dáil yesterday, Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter, deputising for party leader Enda Kenny, raised the case, saying the leniency of the sentencing had given rise to “substantial public concern”.
He acknowledged that the sentence itself was not a matter for the Dáil, as the legislature and judiciary are necessarily separate.
“The Director of Public Prosecutions can appeal against leniency to the court of appeal, and I believe in this case it is appropriate that he does so,” Mr Shatter said.
However, establishing the long-proposed judicial council was a matter for the Dáil, he pointed out.
“There is no mechanism at present in so far as any individual member of the public may wish to complain about comments made by members of the judiciary. The judicial council would provide that.”
He asked Ms Coughlan when the Government would bring forward the legislation.
In response, the Tánaiste said the judicial council would be introduced “later this year”.
She said she could not comment on the sentencing issue, given the independence of the judiciary.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on any particular case. On a general point, as we all know, the DPP has powers to allow an appeal if it is considered that an unduly lenient sentence has been imposed.”
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