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Over 20 court martial cases underway - but no military judge to hear them

The last judge retired in July 2010.

Image: steakpinball via Creative Commons

THE GOVERNMENT is still working on formalising changes to the terms and conditions for the military judge position left vacant since the last judge retired in July 2010.

As a result of the vacancy, 23 court martial cases have built up and are awaiting hearing before the military judge.

The Department of Defence confirmed to TheJournal.ie that no one has been appointed to the vacant position of military judge, but that the department plans to advertise the post “shortly” – after the terms and conditions have been finalised.

A selection committee will be convened in accordance with the Defence Acts to recommend an individual’s appointment. The department says that once initiated, the selection process will “take some eight weeks or so to complete, allowing for advertisement, receipt of applications, interviews and the formal appointment procedure”.

In July 2011, Minister for Defence Alan Shatter confirmed to the Seanad that an individual had been identified within the Defence Forces and recommended for appointment to the post. That person was promoted to colonel, as per the conditions of the appointment, but it transpired that the person did not meet other eligibility criteria for the role.

“We had an individual who had been selected but about whose eligibility there was an issue,” Shatter said.

Shatter also said that it became apparent that the criteria needed to be amended to allow for a wider pool of applicants. Shatter said that any obscurity in the wording of previous legislation regarding the appointment should be cleared up so as to prevent any issues further down the line after a person has been appointed and is presiding over cases.

“To solve the problem and appoint a military judge,” Shatter said, “clearly a new competition would have to take place. If I had ordered the holding of a new competition, there would have remained in the ether a mystery about whether the gentleman who had originally been selected for this position would be eligible for the next competition.”

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“We had to redefine eligibility,” the minister added. “I took the view that there should be a broader pool and we have it extended it to members of the legal profession, solicitors and barristers, with ten years experience.”

He signalled that the individual already identified for the post could apply in the next round of applications.

According to the Department of Defence, the rate of pay for the post including military service allowance is €125,808 per annum (the Non-Personal Pension Contribution Rate) or €132,428 per annum (the Personal Pension Contribution Rate).

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