Where is the Justice?Where is The Peace? Statement from Independent Republican Brendan Casey.

6 May

Despite Diplock courts having officially been abolished in the six counties in 2007 the British Secretary of State’s announcement that it is to continue has been described as “politically convenient.”
But what does this say about the six counties and how far we are from having a ‘normalised’ judicial system. The practice was due to end in July 2007, having been extended previously because of the Republican threat.
The British secretary of state said: “Whilst the use of non-jury trials has reduced significantly in recent years, it is necessary to renew the powers in order to protect jurors from any potential risk posed by paramilitary groups.
“It is always the hope and intention to return to jury trial in all cases in Northern Ireland.”
The use of Diplock courts in the six counties has been a source of controversy for nearly 40 years.
The system was first introduced in 1973 following a review by Law Lord Kenneth Diplock into how the local justice system should deal with paramilitary offences – other than by the use of internment. Which has never been done away with, as we have lived with Internment by remand from the 1970s
The senior judge recommended the right to trial by jury should be “suspended” and replaced with a single judge.
However, even the way Diplock came to make his decision caused controversy.
Criticism focused on the fact the majority of the evidence given to the inquiry had been heard in London, with the Law Lord only visiting the north on two occasions, both times to speak to members of the Brit services.
Despite the suggestion the removal of the right to a jury trial would be temporary, the system remains in place nearly 40 years later.
Republicans have always branded this system “conveyor-belt justice”.
It was also widely opposed by human rights groups.
It was repeatedly alleged the Diplock system accepted forced confessions, which the defendants later retracted.
It was also claimed it was too reliant on accepting police evidence of a suspect nature.
If a judge rules evidence is inadmissible, they are then legally obliged to banish it from their memories before deciding on guilt.
Under the normal system jurors are excluded from discussions on admissibility and as a result are not exposed to inadmissible evidence.
Ironically, high-profile cases in England, such as those of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Maguire Seven, were held with jury trials.
Between 1981 and 1985 Diplock courts were used to process the ‘supergrass’ trials during which touts gave evidence against their former comrades in return for immunity.
The non-jury courts were also used in the shoot-to-kill trials in 1982, during which the RUC were cleared of killing six unarmed republicans.
While the Diplock system was supposed to have been abolished in six counties in 2007 successive British secretaries of state have ruled the threat of intimidation meant the controversial trials should continue.
In our view the British Secretary of State used undue haste in his decision to retain Diplock courts.
It is our view that the level of any increase of intimidation of jurors has been not proven.
It was politically convenient for the Secretary of State to extend the use of non-jury trials.
We believe the argument of danger of intimidation of jurors is a classic and unjustified excuse.
From a fair trial point of view as soon as someone is told there is a danger of a jury being intimidated there is an automatic assumption that the defendant is in some way already guilty. On Friday 5th April Tyrone Republican, Tommy Hamill was sentenced to 10 years through this same system, and many more Republicans await their fate.

The public have accepted and are content with the way the Diplock courts operate, which is a remarkable thing.
Highlighting the ongoing need for non-jury trials is one thing that Republicans should take to the streets for and see it through until this rotten system is smashed!

Brendan Casey

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