Ireland scores well on perceptions of judicial independence - EU survey
The scales of justice statue on the Four Courts. Irish judges ranked highest for continuous training in European law
The Irish legal system has been ranked the second highest in Europe for its perceived level of judicial independence, according to
a new survey.
The 2014 EU Justice Scoreboard has also ranked the country’s judges the highest for participation in continuous training in European law.
According the European Commission, the survey “contributes to identifying potential shortcomings and good practices, and aims to present trends on the functioning of the national justice systems over time”.
In terms of judicial independence, the survey found Ireland was lagging only slightly behind Finland, while Bulgaria and Slovakia were at the worst perceived level.
Information was gathered from a representative sample of law firms in each country who were asked to “what extent is the judiciary in your country independent from the influences of members of government, citizens or firms?”
However, the commission cautions that while “perceived independence” is a relevant indicator, there is also a need for information on how this is fortified in law.
Together with the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ), the commission has begun to collect such data.
The 2014 scoreboard also looked at how each country monitors its courts. In Ireland three of six areas of information were found to exist: the production of an annual activity report, the number of court cases and the number of decisions, although there was no such data pertaining to the number of postponed cases or for the length of proceedings.
“Ireland ranks well in the availability of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, with judicial mediation, non-judicial mediation, arbitration and conciliation all available in Ireland,” the commission noted.
While the scoreboard attempts to address the overall efficiency of judicial mechanisms in each country, it notes that this is not always possible, as is the case in Ireland and the UK for which there is a lack of statistical breakdowns in specific areas.
“The experience with the 2014 EU Justice Scoreboard confirms that the gathering of objective, reliable and comparable data on the effectiveness of justice systems covering all member states remains a challenge,” it says.
“This may be for different reasons: lack of availability of data due to insufficient statistical capacity, or unwillingness to co-operate fully with CEPEJ [European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice].
The commission highlights the need for some sort of measure of efficiency, noting in particular that companies seeking to invest in particular jurisdictions take into account the risk of legal disputes.
Information for Ireland is lacking in some key areas. These include the time required to solve commercial and civil litigation, the clearance rate of cases over new cases being brought and the number of pending cases.