Consultation launched on the use of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland
Today the Northern Ireland Office has launched a new public consultation on whether to renew the legislative provisions underpinning the use of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland, until 2023.
Due to the SEVERE threat from terrorism, non-jury trials have remained necessary for a small number of exceptional cases in Northern Ireland.
The Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 allows for the NI Director of Public Prosecutions to decide when a trial should take place without a jury following a strict statutory test and if he decides there is a risk that the administration of justice might be impaired if the trial were to be conducted with a jury.
Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis MP said:
“Despite the significant progress made in Northern Ireland over the past 20 years, it has remained necessary for a small minority of cases to be conducted without a trial as a result of the prevailing security situation.”
“As part of this consultation I welcome the views of those from across society to help inform the Government’s decision on whether the use of non-jury trials should continue until 2023.”
The current provisions are due to expire in July 2021. They may only be extended by two years subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament.
The Government is now seeking views from stakeholders, including members of the public, representative bodies from the judiciary and community leaders from across Northern Ireland on whether the use of non-jury trials should be extended until 2023.
The consultation will run for 12 weeks and provide the public and wider interested parties with the opportunity to have their say on whether the UK Government should seek to renew these provisions.
Notes to editors
In 2019, only 1% of all Crown Court cases in NI were conducted without a jury. There is a presumption of trial by jury in all cases before the Crown Court in Northern Ireland.
Non-jury trials only take place in exceptional circumstances. This is in stark contrast to the old Diplock system, where the default was a non-jury trial for certain offences.
The provision of non-jury trials can apply to certain cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland through the Criminal Justice Act 2003.