A ROW has broken out in England after a former judge suggested using non-jury trials to relieve a backlog in the judicial system.
His honour Michael Heath suggested that suspending trial by jury on a temporary basis could help alleviate the problem. Mr Heath said that while jury trials are “the cornerstone of our criminal justice system will implode”. However, while Covid has contributed to the backlog of cases in England and Wales it is certainly not completely responsible. I say England and Wales because that was the jurisdiction that Mr Heath was talking about when he made his ‘radical’ suggestion. His comments drew criticism from a number of quarters. Among them the Secret Barrister, an online cover name for a serving QC responsible for a best selling book about the workings, and at times shambolic, nature of the judicial system (His/her book is very good, I highly recommend it). The Secret Barrister argued that while the backlog of cases is unacceptable, “tearing up the right to jury trial, and replacing it with trial by a single judge and two magistrates” was not the answer. “It would be a disaster. Make no mistake.
“Whatever the arguments for and against jury trial, it is beyond dispute that trial by a single judge and two magistrates is a lesser form of Justice” the Secret Barrister added. There was a flurry of comments agreeing with the online expert about this proposed perversion of justice. Meanwhile in the North of Ireland we’ve had non-jury trials since 1973, and they remain in place 22 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The government technically abolished the old Diplock Courts in 2007. However, it give the Director of Public Prosecutions power to decide when cases should be tried without a jury, particularly if there was a chance of jurors being intimidated. That has to be reviewed every two years with it next under consideration in April 2021. And so if the argument is that dispensing with a jury speeds up the process, then the state of the North of Ireland’s judicial system would suggest that is simply not the case, not the sase
The trial of Colin Duffy (52) and his co-defdants Alex McCory (58) and 51-year-old Harry Fitzsimons is still ongoing in a Diplock Court in Belfast. The three men were arrested after an attack on a police patrol in north Belfast in December 2013.
It is now June 2020, any verdict in that trial is likely to coincide with the seventh anniversary of the gun attack the three men deny taking part in. And so the removal of a jury is certainly not the magic wand to speedy justice, not in the North of Ireland anyway. The underfunding of the legal system over many years has placed enormous stress on the system. But it goes deeper than that as anyone that has ever worked in a court in the North will tell you. The wheels of justice turn painfully slow in this part of the world.
There are plans under way to try and rectify that, to do away with committal hearings in serious cases that spend months bouncing around a Magistrates Court before being sent to the Crown where they were destined for anyway. A consultation is to be carried out to consider a strategic approach to restorative practices for adults in the criminal justice system.
Diversionary orders could be used to deal with less serious cases where there is no risk to the public. But all of this takes time, requires proper funding and a buy-in from all involved agencies. In the interim, victims often drop out of cases or are put through further truma having to live with the anxious anticipation of giving evidence for months, even years – a completely unacceptable situation. A decision on returning to the use of juries for serious or paramilitary trails remains years away. Will we once again have the extension of a ‘lesser form of Justice’ here in the North of Ireland, where there are frequent reminders that despite the words of Margaret Thatcher, when it comes to equality under law we are definitely not “as British as Finchley”.
AWith many thanks to the: Irish News and Allison Morris Security Correspondent for the original story
Follow these links to find out more: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/courts/alleged-recordings-of-republicans-compared-in-belfast-police-murder-bid-trial-38947538.html
An Irish News journalist has revealed that she was harassed by her former partner for four years.
Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, Allison Morris called for stalking legislation to be extended to Northern Ireland.
It comes days after Fernando Murphy, of Balholm Drive, in Belfast, was jailed for 10 offences, including harassment and breaching a restraining order.
“I was full of anxiety, my hair was falling out with stress,” the security correspondent said about her ordeal.
Murphy, 42, was handed a 14-month sentence at Belfast Magistrates’ Court last Thursday. He will spend half his sentence in prison and the other half on licence.
During four years of abuse, Ms Morris was subjected to “humiliating” behaviour, including Murphy coming to the Irish News and “shouting and screaming”.
It was when the harassment began to impact her family that the journalist decided to act.
“I sort of broke after that,” she said.
“I could take the abuse when it was me but when it was my daughter it was different.
“He knew that saying horrible, sexual, things about me wasn’t getting a reaction so he moved on to my family, and the targets became my children and my father, who is very ill, and my work.”
‘A big step’
Ms Morris said going to the police was “a big step”.
“As someone who is a crime and security correspondent, I deal with the police on a professional basis quite regularly, often quite critically and I hold them to account in a lot of cases, and I just really didn’t feel comfortable,” she said.
“I didn’t want people to think that I was weak, I didn’t want, in a very Belfast way, for people to know my business.”
Northern Ireland is the only region of UK or Ireland without stalking legislation and Ms Morris says she hopes that sharing her experience will change things.
“It made me angry because I was struggling to navigate it and through my work, I know the legal system.
“I thought ‘what must this be like for someone who doesn’t have this knowledge or support or wouldn’t know where to go to complain or appeal or to push things along?’ It’s such an emotionally destroying process that is desperately in need of change.”
Writing on Twitter on Monday afternoon, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said it was “brave and courageous” for Ms Morris to “make her terrible experience public”.
The PSNI currently deals with stalking under the Protection from Harassment Order (NI) 1997.
The Department of Justice held a public consultation last year on the creation of a specific stalking offence.
Its report on the findings said that the majority of respondents strongly supported the introduction of stalking legislation.
The department said it was “determined to do everything it can to protect victims and to stop perpetrators at the earliest opportunity”.
Justice Minister Naomi Long said she was “acutely aware of the distress that stalking behaviour can cause”.
She added that bringing forward legislation that offers the best protection for victims was a priority.
With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI for the original story
Follow these links to find out more: http://Judge refuses bid to overturn dissident republican Murphy’s alcohol ban
A VICTIMS campaign group has accused the DUP of continually having “placed their face against” progress on legacy inquests.
The comments come as Arlene Foster said she would be “writing to the Irish Primeminister” to express concern after further delays this week in the inquest into the IRA massacre of ten Protestant workmen at Kingsmill. Mrs Foster made her comments after it emerged that documents linked to the 1976 attack and requested from gardaí by a judge in Belfast had not been produced. The request was made by Judge Brian Sherrard who is presiding over the high-profile case.
Mrs Foster said: “I am disappointed that the Irish government is now standing in the way of closure for these families, who have already suffered so much.” The Republic’s Justice department said the Irish government had already taken the “unprecedented” step of producing domestic legislation to facilitate legal co-operation with the inquest. “This legislation facilitated the transfer of significant evidential material by An Garda Síochána to the North of Ireland coroner,” a spokesman said.
“The Irish authorities have continuously sought to cooperate with the coroner and his legal team as part of an ongoing legal process.” Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan had requested just over £10m to fund a proposal to deal more expediently with legacy inquests last year. However, Mrs Foster blocked the funding prior to the 2016 assembly election saying the process was “skewed” towards killings committed by the state, and she “will not allow any process to rewrite the past”. Andrée Murphy of Relatives for Justice said while she welcomed Mrs Foster’s comments in relation to the Kingsmill delays, her decision to block funding for legacy inquests in March 2016 had caused “harm on top of the devastation already experienced”. “Families from every background and all communities are engaged in inquests”, she said. It would be hard to over state the huge pressure and ever present anxiety that the lack of progress on inquests has caused. “And movement on it would demonstrate goodwill from the British government and unionist parties who have thus far placed their face against delivering achievable remedy to these families.”
With many thanks to: Allison Morris, The Irish News for the original story.