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Two-year wait for trial at Special Criminal Court without jury

Published 09/02/2016

Cases are heard by a judge in the absence of a jury because of fears jurors could be intimidated
Cases are heard by a judge in the absence of a jury because of fears jurors could be intimidated

The waiting time for non-jury Special Criminal Court cases to be heard has stretched to more than two years.

The delay was due to some cases taking a long time to hear, a spokesman for the Courts Service said. Trials awaiting hearing surround murder, membership of an illegal organisation, firearms and explosives and tax evasion.

On Monday, justice minister Frances Fitzgerald said a second court would be up and running by April this year.

The spokesman for the court said: "The next available trial date in the Special Criminal Court is Easter term 2018; representing a waiting time of almost 26 months.

"This increased waiting time is not due to any increase in the number of new cases coming before the court - but rather a number of cases took a very long time to hear."

Cases are heard by a judge in the absence of a jury because of fears jurors could be intimidated. They include alleged paramilitary matters.

There are currently 30 cases awaiting trial with 42 defendants.

Of these defendants seven are in custody and the remaining 35 are on bail.

The backlog can change quickly if cases proceed faster than expected.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said the Special Criminal Court does not work and witnesses can be protected from intimidation without recourse to so-called emergency legislation.

The republican party's manifesto contains a commitment to abolish the Special Criminal Court.

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From Belfast Telegraph