Empty cruise liners off the south coast of England could be relocated to Northern Ireland to enable jury trials involving more than one defendant to take place, a Northern Ireland judge has suggested.
Judge Philip Babington made the suggestion that trials could take place in ships moored on Lough Foyle or Belfast Lough during a sitting of Derry Crown Court in Coleraine.
Several cases, some of them involving listed trials, were put back for several weeks because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on court cases generally and on jury trials in particular.
Judge Babington told the prosecution and defence barristers, most of whom appeared on the court sightlink, that because of the current coronavirus pandemic no court building in Northern Ireland could be used to deal with a jury trial involving more than one defendant.
"There is no way I nor anyone else can list a case to be heard anywhere in Northern Ireland which involves more than one defendant. Like others I am not best pleased with this situation but we are where we are", he said.
Judge Babington asked the barristers that if they had "any influence through the Bar Council to see whether we can get the courts to deal with multiple defendant cases, it would be of great assistance".
"I am aware of empty cruise ships sitting off the south coast of England at the moment. Maybe they could be brought to Belfast or to Derry where they could be used in multiple defendant cases.
"In all seriousness there is a serious problem here which the Court Service will somehow have to attempt to resolve. Hopefully we will be updated on the situation on October 16", he said.