Code of conduct: Parties fail to reach agreement

POLITICAL parties failed in a number of attempts to reach agreement on a code of conduct for TDs and senators making representations on behalf of criminals being sentenced in court.

The whips of government and opposition parties met in April 2009 following controversy over representations made in a rape case by Labour TD, now minister of state Kathleen Lynch.

A proposal to draw up guidelines was made by then leader of the Green Party John Gormley and supported by Ms Lynch, who apologised for her involvement in the case.

Discussions continued over a number of months but by September 2009 they were abandoned. There was a view that it was a basic principle in law that a person char-ged with offences before the court was entitled to character evidence.

When considering a sentence, the courts are entitled to take into consideration information on the convicted criminal, the group concluded.

A similar code of conduct was called for in 2002 when it emerged that former PD junior minister Bobby Molloy, made representations to a judge in a rape case.

Mr Molloy resigned from his minister of state post and said he would not seek re-election after it emerged he tried to make contact with a judge when a man awaited sentencing for the rape of his daughter.

None of the political parties have issued written guidelines on the issue since. A number of politicians have landed themselves in controversy over the years for intervention in various cases.

The most recent incident was the Green Party’s Trevor Sargent who was forced to resign as a junior minister in February 2010 after accepting he made an “error of judgment” in contacting gardaí over a case involving the alleged assault of one of his constituents.

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