Document on pay of judges to be removed from website

 

A DOCUMENT posted on the Courts Service website criticising the Government’s plan for a referendum on judges’ pay will be removed at the close of business today, the Courts Service has said.

The unsigned 12-page memorandum on the website is dated July 7th, last Thursday.

The document had already been sent to the Government by senior judges.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he thought it was inappropriate for the statement to be carried on the website.

When he learned of it on Friday, he asked an official from the courts section of his department to communicate this to the Courts Service.

A Courts Service spokesman said that on Friday afternoon the official, who contacted the Courts Service on behalf of the Minister, was informed it would remain up until the beginning of this week.

He was also told the memorandum had been placed on the Courts Service website for the purpose of making it available to the public and in particular the media, who had sought copies through the Courts Service.

“Accordingly it will remain on the website until the close of business tomorrow when it is considered that those who sought or wished to have a copy will have had a full opportunity of doing so,” the spokesman said yesterday.

Substantial parts of the memorandum had been initially published in the Sunday Business Poston July 3rd, he said.

The posting of the document on the website was “unusual and unprecedented”, Mr Shatter said.

Citing the doctrine of the separation of powers, he said he was not aware of any case in the past where the website of a Government department or a State agency carried a critique of Government policy by those who may be affected by salary issues.

Mr Shatter said on RTÉ radio that the issue was highlighted by the Review Body on Remuneration in the Public Sector in a 2009 report.

The body indicated it would have considered a downward adjustment in judges’ pay in line with those experienced by the wider public service, but was precluded from doing so by the Constitution.

The Minister said the proposed referendum was simply designed to address “the anomaly whereby judges are unable to contribute their fair share in the national interest on the same basis as other public servants”.

Meanwhile, the Minister’s “increasingly arrogant and hypocritical treatment of the judiciary” has been described by Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on justice, Dara Calleary, as “deeply worrying and a real threat to judicial independence”.

He said Mr Shatter’s continued criticism of the judiciary over the publication of the memo on pay, despite revelations that the Attorney General gave the go- ahead to release this information, showed that he had no thought for the importance of maintaining good relations between these two arms of the State.

Mr Calleary said it was hypocritical of the Minister to invoke the separation of powers and call on judges to “show due respect for the role of Government and parliament”, when he showed no such consideration when it came to responding to the legitimate point that the level of reduction in judges’ pay should be decided by an independent source.