Collins letter to judge 'a serious error', says Bruton

Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman made a "serious error" by asking a judge for leniency for a man convicted of drugs offences, a Government Minister said today.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said that politicians should never interfere with the judicial process.

Niall Collins has faced criticism for writing to a judge offering a character reference for a man awaiting sentencing on drugs charges.

Minister Bruton said that Deputy Collins needs to admit his mistake.

"I think any politician should know that a fundamental principle is that you do not seek to influence a judge in deciding on the leniency or otherwise for a drug dealer, or indeed in any other case," he said.

"I think it's a fundamental line between politics and the judiciary, which one should not cross and I think he has still to recognise it was a serious error to cross that line."

Independent Deputy Shane Ross thinks it could have implications on his ability to work as Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman.

"It would be better if he took a rest or he took anther portfolio - he's a very able guy, but he made a mistake there," he said.

"I think it damaged his...credibility in this area and I think it would be very difficult for him now to make pronouncements about judicial independence."

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