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Independence of lawyers essential to public confidence in rule of Law –  DPP
DPP Claire Loftus watched by Law Society’s Ken Murphy and Mr Justice Donald Binchy Pic: Jason Clarke Photography

14 Feb 2020 / Law society Print

Lawyers' independence key to rule of law, says DPP

Speaking at the parchment ceremony for 43 new solicitors Law Society president Michele O’Boyle said last night that the quality of Irish lawyers is such that they are in demand both nationally and internationally.

She told the new graduates that their work would not be confined to traditional areas of practice but increasingly as in-house counsel, valued government employees or critical members of management teams.

The graduates’ exceptional legal skills will seamlessly transfer, Michele O’Boyle said, and today is the start of their professional careers.

She pointed to the value of independent legal professionals. They may sometimes have to use legal skills to argue against someone else’s interests, within the system of laws that society has developed.

Due process

No one is above the rule of law Michele O’Boyle said, but this requires the highest standard of due process and procedural fairness.

“The rule of law cannot exist without a transparent legal system,” she said.

The new solicitors will be the guardians and champions  of the rule of law that our society is founded upon, she said, and this requires expertise and experience, commitment and responsibility.

“You will play vital role in the preservation of society,” Michele O’Boyle told the new graduates.

"Today I challenge you, as guardians of the rule of law, to commit to being stewards of justice, with the skills and training that give you a unique ability to make a meaningful difference and to have an impact on society.”

Common sense

To do such work requires common sense and good judgment, she said, in giving opinion to clients who they must represent with diligence, objectivity and with impenetrable integrity.

The second speaker, Mr Justice Donald Binchy of the High Court, who is also a former solicitor, encouraged the new graduates to get involved in their local bar associations and with the various Law Society committees.

Most of all, you should give support to each other, he said, because the law is a challenging career, which is difficult enough without making it more difficult.

A client’s position can be asserted both courteously and effectively, he said.

Mr Justice Binchy suggested that the word ‘outraged’ was overused in the law.

Be good to each other

“Be good to each other and look after yourselves,” he said.

“I urge you to live a balanced lifestyle,” because that way you will get much more out of life.

He said the rule of law means that everyone is subject to, and accountable before, the law which is interpreted and enforced by an independent judiciary which operates free from any interference or influence of the legislature or executive.

“Intrinsic to that is the separation of powers,” he said, and that all branches of government must be free of any interference from others.

He said that recent developments in Poland mean there is no room for complacency and we must be alert to any damage to the principle of the rule of law.

Supreme Court Mr Justice John McMenamin had recently marched in Poland in silent support of an independent judiciary and against the unauthorised removal of judges, he said.

Mr Justice Binchy said the Law Society works to achieve objectives for the good of the profession.

“Upon the rule of law all of our bread and butter depends,” he said.

Delighted

The final speaker at last night’s ceremony was Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Claire Loftus who said she was delighted to be present to celebrate the achievements of the new solicitors.

The DPP said she was a career prosecutor and a public servant, who came from a long line of public servants.

Claire Loftus said she was drawn to work prosecuting crime and loved using her advocacy skills, learned in court.

She said brevity is the best approach in court and advised the new solicitors to always be well-prepared.

The DPP said the new graduates had the advantage now of a clean slate in their career.

Endless

“Start as you mean to go on. You have gained admission to a profession where the possibilities are endless.

“This is the time when you can decide for yourself what direction you go, not only professionally but also ethically,” the DPP said.

Solicitors are held to a higher standard than the general public, the DPP said, drawing comparison with the code of ethics for prosecutors, which can be summed up in four words – independence, responsibility, integrity and competence.

It also stresses honest dealings with colleagues when acting in the public interest in ensuring that justice is done.

The DPP is totally independent of Government, Claire Loftus said, and not overseen by minister or body.

“My office has a lot of power and that brings a lot of responsibility,” she said.

“I know a bit about making decisions that are not necessarily popular, whether that is to prosecute or not to prosecute. They can be very difficult decisions but doing the right thing was never going to be easy,” the DPP said.

“But I am secure in the knowledge that I make those decisions without fear or favour and that is how you as solicitors should proceed.”

Independence is absolutely in the public interest in order to maintain confidence in our institutions, the DPP said, not least in the office she leads.

The DPP said public sector work offers leadership and management roles for lawyers.

120 lawyers

“My office has about 120 lawyers, about 112 of those are solicitors. We have 220 staff. Its  big operation and that takes a lot of steering, which I enjoy.”

Claire Loftus’ ten-year term as DPP will finish next year

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