‘Less just’ non-jury trials not for England, Wales but we’re another story

OPINION 

Colin Duffy (52)

 

 

 

A ROW has broken out in England after a former judge suggested using non-jury trials to relieve a backlog in the judicial system.

Diplock Court’s – non-jury trials

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.

Laganside Court House in Belfast

“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 

European Court of Justice

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.

Alex McCrory (58)
Henry Fitzsimons (51)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Belfast High (Crown) Court

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.

Laganside Courts

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

(2)-: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/terror-trial-second-voice-analyst-links-recording-of-police-murder-bid-to-alleged-dissidents-38968712.html

 

Mass murderer Michael Stone unfairly punished, Court of Appeal hears!

MILLTOWN Cemetery bomber Michael Stone is being unfairly punished by having to remain in prison until 2024, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday, Monday June 1st 2020.

Michael Stone UFF/UDA and DUP mass murderer of Catholics in a sectarian murder spree in 1988. Where he was sentenced to 30 years

Lawyers for the former loyalist paramilitary argued that six years he spent out on licence should count towards the 30-year tariff he received for waging a sectarian murder campaign. Stone (64), pictured above, is seeking to overturn a ruling which means he still has serve another four years behind bars. He was freed early under the Good Friday Agreement in 2000, but was returned to prison in 2006 for attempting to murder Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at Stormont. In January 2019 the High Court held that the Department of Justice had wrongly determined Stone is eligible for potential release on parole. According to that ruling he must remain behind bars until July 2024 at the earliest. The finding came in a legal challenge mounted by the sister of one of Stone’s victims.

Michael Stone pictured here on his release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 2000

Deborah McGuinness’s brother, Thomas McErlean, was murdered with fellow mourners John Murray and Kevin Brady in the hand grenade attack on an IRA funeral at Milltown Cemetery in West Belfast in March 1988. In 2013 Stone was told that must serve the rest of the 30-year tariff of his life sentence. His case was then referred to Parole Commissioners on the basis that he had completed that minimum term. However, Ms McGuinness claimed the Department unlawfully included the six years he spent out on licence before the Belfast attack on Stormont. The High Court backed her case. Appealing that ruling, counsel for Stone argued that those six years should count. David Scoffield QC said: “When someone is released on licence their sentence continues to tick by.” But according to Roman Lavery QC, for Ms McGuinness, public confidence in sentencing arrangements would be undermined if Stone spent less than 30 years in jail. Judgment was reserved.

With many thanks to the Irish News for the original story 

Unionist leaders have difficulty with a shared society never mind entering into a debate about a United Ireland !!

https://www.thedetail.tv/articles/unionist-leaders-have-difficulty-with-a-shared-society-never-mind-entering-into-a-debate-about-a-united-ireland

Sinn Féin leader in the North of Ireland and leader of the DUP Arlene Foster

Westminster Bill Would Make United Ireland Vote Impossible | Gript

https://gript.ie/westminster-bill-would-make-united-ireland-vote-impossible/

 

Follow these links to find out more: https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/55727

(2)-: https://seachranaidhe1.blog/2020/01/14/border-poll-threshold-needs-nailed-down-now-yes-for-unity/?fbclid=IwAR2Y7xjAGbimUEeYXYI0bIXVCl_Y2-NgZ3Mny9gmoF4ZZXzgthIUt6ytWx0

Border Poll threshold needs nailed down now. – Yes For Unity

https://yesforunity.ie/border-poll-threshold-needs-nailed-down-now/

Follow these links to find out more: https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/55727

(2)-: https://seachranaidhe1.blog/2020/01/14/westminster-bill-would-make-united-ireland-vote-impossible-gript/?fbclid=IwAR12lWTX5dDGoWMemKDIZNGNSxIz6uYt0srPcEuHx4iwSnUqxEmPLjuWINM

 

Brexit and constitutional futures – agendaNi

https://www.agendani.com/brexit-and-constitutional-futures/

Tiny Italian enclave in Switzerland transferred back to Italy and the EU’s customs union | Euronews

This could be a solution for the North of Ireland

https://www.euronews.com/2020/01/03/tiny-italian-enclave-in-switzerland-transferred-back-to-italy-and-the-eu-s-customs-union

The British government are trying to remove our Irish rights under the GFA to claim our citizenship as Irish citizens in the North of Ireland

Conversation

Emma DeSouza
@EmmandJDeSouza
“An eligible Irish citizen is someone who was born in Northern Ireland, who is an Irish citizen and also qualifies as a British citizen (whether or not they identify themselves as such)” Significant changes are being quietly made to citizenship & identity in NI.
12:17 PM · Nov 15, 2019Twitter for Android
Emma DeSouza
@EmmandJDeSouza
Replying to
The British Government’s attack on the birthright provisions of the GFA has gone up a level with these changes. Make no mistake, they are taking the October 14th ruling, that the people of NI are British citizens even if they identify as Irish & making seismic changes.
Emma DeSouza
@EmmandJDeSouza

The DUP does not and never has from day one supported the Good Friday Agreement (GFA)

Stephen Farry
@StephenFarryMLA
Replying to

we will making commitments in the forthcoming Alliance manifesto re addressing the failings highlighted in your case. We will keep pushing both governments to ensure GFA is properly reflected in law.

Catriona King
@CatrionaKing1

Under the GFA the citizens in the North have the legal right to class themselves as Irish, British or bothReplying to

@EmmandJDeSouza @NiallSF

Are

and

doing anything about this? Any and all breaches of the GFA must be prevented/challenged.

With many thanks to: Emma De Souza for the original posting on Twitter 

Chaos as Downing Street forgets GFA obligations

“British-Irish cooperation is written into the Good Friday Agreement, it is at the top of the agenda of its East-West institutions and is also a primary function of the NIO under devolution” Newton Emerson

THE latest outburst from Downing Street chaos strategy is to threaten withdrawal of security cooperation from EU countries that facilitate a Brexit extension.

This caused a little more chaos than intended when was denounced by Julian Smith, the Secretary of State for the North of Ireland. In a very public rebuke, Smith said: I am clear that any threat on withdrawing security cooperation with Ireland is unacceptable. This is not in the interest of the North of Ireland or the Union. He could have added that British-Irish cooperation is written into the Good Friday Agreement, is at the top of the agenda of its East-West institutions and is also a primary function of the North of Ireland Office under devolution. Withdrawal of such cooperation would be a clear breach of the agreement than Brexit itself.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Newton Emerson for the original story 

DUP’s Arlene Foster says Good Friday Agreement not ‘sacrosanct’ and praises Boris Johnson’s Brexit vision | The Independent

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/arlene-foster-good-friday-agreement-brexit-deal-dup-northern-ireland-a8564551.html