Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

G8 Sunday courts 'contingency plan'

US President Barack Obama, right, is expected to attend June's G8 summit in Co Fermanagh

Powers to hold court sittings on Sundays during the G8 will only be used when truly needed, Northern Ireland's justice minister promised.

Campaigners have criticised police over a massive security operation anticipating trouble from protesters. Measures include creating extra cells capable of holding 350 people and imposing a ring of steel around the luxury Lough Erne golf resort in Co Fermanagh where June's meeting of world leaders is being held.

David Ford told the Stormont Assembly Sunday court sittings would be used only in exceptional circumstances.

"This is only part and parcel of ensuring that this power is only deployed when it is truly needed," he said. "I have made it clear that this is an exceptional power as part of a contingency plan to cater for potential trouble, there will not be Sunday courts as a matter of routine."

The measure was requested by Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable Matt Baggott and Mr Ford said it would be covered by a "quadruple lock" including the chief constable, the head of the judiciary Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among those expected to attend a gathering representing some of the world's leading economies hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Ford said the last time the G8 summit was held in the UK, in 2005 in Gleneagles in Scotland, 350 arrests were made on the first day.

"We need to ensure that our police and court systems can operate swiftly and effectively in the eyes of the world," he added. "We need to ensure those arrested can be brought quickly to court from police cells and for judges to make decisions on remands into prison custody or to grant bail."

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is expanding custody provision at stations across Northern Ireland for the summit. Courts and prisons staff will also step up workloads in the anticipation of extra arrests.

An unused 108-capacity unit at Maghaberry high security prison in Co Antrim and a former army site in Co Tyrone could house those charged.

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