Irish Bar to rule on judge ban

THE IRISH Bar Council is to hold an extraordinary general meeting next month to consider the case of the judge whose appointment plunged the country into political crisis.

Former Attorney General Harry Whelehan resigned as president of the Irish High Court less than a week after his appointment.

He was accused of misleading the Government by prime minister Albert Reynolds, who also resigned.

At the centre of the crisis was a seven-month delay in the handling of an extradition warrant for a paedophile priest, wanted in Northern Ireland to answer charges of sex offences.

Whelehan wants to return to practise at the Irish Bar but is prevented by the Bar Council's code of conduct, which bans retired judges from working in the courts. The code specifies that former judges may not practise in courts of the same or lower jurisdictions over those in which they presided.

In Whelehan's case the rule would stop him practising in the Irish High Court or any of the lower courts.

The code's aim is to prevent the embarrassment for existing judges of having someone who had been their senior judge suddenly appearing before them as a barrister. There is also concern over the ethical questions and the impact on public opinion of a retired judge returning to court to argue against decisions he may have taken earlier.

The crucial question is whether Whelehan can be classified as retired. He presided over the Irish High Court for almost a week and heard two small damages cases before he resigned.

The Bar Council, with more than 900 members, will hold a special meeting on 2 December to consider the issue. One suggestion is to table an amendment to the rule specifically to deal with the Whelehan case.

One barrister says: “The rule won't be permanently changed but simply adjusted to meet the exceptional circumstances of the case.” Privately, barristers are sympathetic to Whelehan and feel he has been “put through the mill”.

MORE than 150 Polish law students have attended the first ever Project Europe conference held outside the UK.

The conference, organised by the Trainee Solicitors Group (TSG) with the Polish branch of the European Law Students Association (ELSA), was staged at Warsaw University this month.

Planned by TSG international relations officer Dr David Taylor and retired judge George Dobry QC, the conference covered human rights, environmental law, and the Maastricht Treaty.

Taylor says the TSG's profile enabled the group to take the conference outside the UK. There are plans to hold similar events in other European locations including Kiev, Budapest and Slovakia.

“The TSG now has contacts in most of the major international law groups, and we are invited to attend international conferences almost every weekend. We are now the most powerful national student and young lawyer body in Europe,” says Taylor.