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Irish judges defend High Court judge against 'unacceptable' personal attacks from Polish media

It stems from a decision made by Justice Aileen Donnelly this week.

Justice Donnelly has been a member of the High Court since 2014.
Justice Donnelly has been a member of the High Court since 2014.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

THE ASSOCIATION OF Judges in Ireland has moved to defend one of its members from a media attack in Poland after a significant court ruling this week.

In the High Court this week, Justice Aileen Donnelly referred the extradition case of a Polish man to the European Court of Justice citing constitutional changes that she said had “systematically damaged” the rule of law in Poland.

Authorities have been seeking the extradition of Artur Celmer from Ireland to his native Poland as he is wanted on drug trafficking charges.

His lawyers are opposing the extradition, citing changes to the Polish legal system by the country’s government.

The Polish Supreme Court has criticised the changes, saying they ”go against the standards of the Polish constitution, in addition to violating the principle of separation of powers, the independence of the courts and judges and the security of tenure of judges.”

One of the new laws approved last month by President Andrzej Duda ends the mandates of nearly half the Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, who denounced the legislation as a “coup”.

Another reform has given parliament the power to choose members of the National Council of the Judiciary, whose task is to oversee judicial impartiality.

In referring the extradition case to Court of Justice of the European Union on Monday, Justice Aileen Donnelly said a number of legislative changes in Poland in the last two years were “so immense” that the High Court was forced to conclude that the rule of law in Poland has been “systematically damaged”.

That judgment and Justice Donnelly’s comments relating to the rule of law in Poland were criticised by some elements within the Polish media.

Some of the criticism made reference to Justice Donnelly’s private life and these personalised attacks have been labelled as “utterly unacceptable” by a group representing Irish judges.

Justice Donnelly is in a same-sex relationship and a number of Polish outlets linked this to her decision.

“The Association of Judges of Ireland wishes to deprecate in the strongest terms the personalised attacks and invective directed at our member, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly reportedly emanating from some sections of the Polish media,” the group said in a statement this afternoon.

Any interested person or party is entitled to criticise a judgment or ruling of a court, and even to do so in robust terms. However, a judge is a public office holder, and if a party wishes to criticise her for the manner in which she has performed her public duty, the criticism should be confined to that and directed at the court's decision and not at the judge personally.

“The irrelevant references to Ms Justice Donnelly’s personal and private life are utterly unacceptable and we condemn them unreservedly. ”

The precise wording of the referral to the European Court of Justice will be argued before the High Court next week.

Read: High Court judge says changes in Poland have ‘systematically damaged’ the rule of law and breached democracy >

Read: High Court rules that teenager’s HIV need not be disclosed to young woman >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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