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Volcano ash puts off landmark legal case

A landmark legal challenge to non-jury trials in Northern Ireland has been put off — after barristers were delayed by the volcanic ash cloud.

Prominent Co Tyrone republican Brian Arthurs (45) and his wife Paula were due to contest a decision that they should be tried for alleged mortgage fraud in front of a judge alone.

But the High Court hearing did not go ahead after it emerged that two of their barristers were stopped from travelling to Belfast because ash drifting from Iceland forced the closure of Irish airspace. The couple were to be represented by London-based QC Raza Husain and his junior Dan Squires.

But a member of their legal team, Fiona Doherty, told judges: “Mr Husain and Mr Squires were due to arrive this morning at Belfast City Airport. This morning their flight was cancelled and all airports in Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland have been closed until at least 1pm. Obviously the intention was for both Mr Husain and Mr Squires to be here this morning. That intention has been thwarted due to events that only arose over night and this morning.”

With the criminal case on hold until the legal challenge is resolved, the judicial review case will now take place next month.

Arthurs, of Finulagh Road, Castlecaulfield, Dungannon, and his wife are seeking to quash a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions to issue a certificate for a non-jury trial.

It is the first time an attempt has been made to judicially review provisions under the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 which allow for a judge to sit alone in trials if there is believed to be paramilitary links or a fear of jury tampering.

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