Belfast Telegraph

Non-jury trial provision extended

The use of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland is to be extended for a further two years, the Government has said.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said the judge-only hearings were still needed in a small number of cases to rule out any risk to jurors from paramilitary groups.

Such trials were introduced for terrorist related offences in 1972 after a report by senior judge Lord Diplock.

At the height of the practice more than 300 trials a year saw the judge alone rule on guilt or innocence.

While so-called "Diplock courts" were officially abolished in 2007, the Director of Public Prosecutions can still issue a specific certificate for a non-jury hearing in the region.

Mr Paterson placed a written statement before parliament that will see this option being extended for another two years.

"Whilst the use of non-jury trials has reduced significantly in recent years, it is necessary to renew the powers in order to protect jurors from any potential risk posed by paramilitary groups," he stated.

"It is always the hope and intention to return to jury trial in all cases in Northern Ireland. However, having considered the views of stakeholders and conducted a detailed analysis of the current threat, I believe it is necessary to extend the non-jury trial system at this time for use in a very small number of cases to ensure justice is administered fairly.

"Therefore I am laying before Parliament an order to extend the non-jury trial provisions for a further period of two years.

"I will of course keep the situation under review, Government remains committed to a return to jury trial in all cases as soon as it is deemed appropriate."

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