Willie Hay says non-jury Diplock-style trials should eventually go but insists they are still needed for terror prosecutions
Willie Hay says the continued use of Diplock-style non-jury courts to deal with terror offences remains necessary but he added that he hopes they can be phased out at some point in the future.
The DUP grandee was speaking during a debate on the extension of the controversial provisions for another two years.
He said non-jury trials are still needed due to the potential threat of paramilitary intimidation of jurors.
“They certainly remain an important tool in specific circumstances to protect NI’s criminal justice system.
“I wish we were in a place in 2021 where specifically designed NI-only provisions such as this were a thing of the past. But it is always worth saying that we have come a long way, even if we are not quite where we want to be yet in NI,” he declared.
Under the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007 (Extension of Duration of Non-jury Trial Provisions) Order 2021 non-jury trials will be extended for a further two years from August 1, 2021. Such trials were originally introduced here under the NI (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 which followed Kenneth Diplock’s ‘Report of the Commission to consider legal procedures to deal with terrorist activities in NI.’ This was superseded by the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007.
Speaking in the British House of Lords the senior DUP man said: “Non-jury trials need to continue in order to combat those who wish to use fear and intimidation to undermine NI’s peace, and indeed the criminal justice process itself. It is vital in NI that we protect the justice system.”
The DUP peer said the number of non-jury trials that take place in the north is relatively low.
“They have accounted for less than 5% of all Crown cases in NI over the past five years. Of course, we know the important role that the PPS plays in identifying cases for non-jury trials in NI. I welcome the commitment from the Government to see an end to non-jury trials in NI when it is safe to do so.”