Couple's fight for jury trial reaches top court
A Co Tyrone couple facing mortgage fraud charges are to take their fight to be tried by a jury to the UK's highest court.
In a landmark challenge to part of Northern Ireland's justice system, former republican prisoner Brian Arthurs (45) and his wife Paula are attempting to quash a decision that their case should go before a judge sitting alone.
A panel of High Court judges dismissed their judicial review application earlier this year.
They ruled there was no evidence that the Director of Public Prosecutions failed to approach his task correctly when deciding to authorise a non-jury trial.
But those judges yesterday agreed to certify two questions to be put before the Supreme Court on points of law of general public importance.
The first is if the decision by the DPP to issue a certificate under the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 should be judicially reviewed on grounds of procedural fairness.
Lawyers for the couple, of Finulagh Road, Castlecaulfield, Dungannon, have argued that reasons for concluding there might be a risk to the administration of justice by holding a jury trial were never disclosed.
The second question is whether or not the DPP's decision engages the couple's right to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Their solicitor said: “Our intention now is to petition the Supreme Court of the UK for leave to appeal the judgment of the Divisional Court in Northern Ireland.
“This is an important point which raises fundamental issues about a defendant's right to a jury trial.”
With the case set to go before the Supreme Court, the trial of the couple could be further delayed.