Consultation launched over extension of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland
A consultation is being launched on whether to extend the use of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland for another two years, the Government has announced.
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire conceded trial without jury is not ideal, but said the continued threat of terrorism make them necessary "in a small number of cases".
Provisions to allow non-jury trials, contained within the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007, will expire on July 31 next year unless they are extended.
Mr Brokenshire announced the 12-week consultation in a written ministerial statement.
He said: "Today in Northern Ireland, there is a strong presumption for jury trials in all cases, with less than 2% of all Crown Court cases per year held without a jury.
"However, the severe threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism and the presence of violent paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland continues to pose risks to the criminal justice system which can necessitate non-jury trials in a small number of cases.
"This Government remains fully committed to seeing an end to non-jury trials in Northern Ireland, when safe and compatible with the interests of justice. There are no limits to the number of times non-jury trial provisions under the 2007 Act may be extended.
"However, the temporary nature of the provisions reflects the Government's view that this is an exceptional system that ought to be reviewed on a regular basis and be kept in force for as short a time as necessary to uphold the effective administration of justice."