Ireland introduces a seven-year term for senior judges

Moves are under way in Ireland to bring judicial appointments in line with other areas of public life by fixing a seven-year non-renewable term for senior judges.

The change is the most radical of the recommendations made by a courts commission set up by justice minister Nora Owen to devise a more efficient judicial system.

The offices affected would be the chief justice, the presidents of the High Court, circuit, and district judges.

Under the plans, however, court presidents would continue to act as judges until retirement after their seven-year terms had expired.

A spokesman for the commission said it was “wrong in principle” that the government should find itself in the position of appointing a court president for a period of up to 20 years.

He said: “It would be undesirable if senior judges were exposed to the criticism that they were influenced in their decisions by the hope of serving a second term.”

He claimed the new system would create a more efficient judicial process.

“If a judge holds a court presidency for many years he or she will inevitably become progressively less responsive to the need for change and less energetic in the implementation of change.”

The commission was highly critical of the operation of the courts in its report. It described the system as antiquated, overburdened and in crisis. It claimed many staff had responsibility but no authority and that there was a lack of resources, training schemes and information technology.

The Irish Government has promised to act on all the reports' recommendations.