Saturday 24 March 2018

New criminal court will not sit until after Easter, reveals judge

Judge Paul Butler
Judge Paul Butler

A High Court judge has today indicated that a second Special Criminal Court, the establishment of which was announced by the Government last October, will not sit during this legal term.

The judge said it appears the new court will sit during the next legal term, which begins after Easter.

Mr Justice Paul Butler made the comments this morning during mentions of a number of cases at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin.

Trial dates for a number of the cases, most of which deal with alleged dissident republican activity, were fixed for November, 2017.

Mr Justice Butler said that when the second Special Criminal Court is established, lawyers in these cases may apply for an earlier trial date at the new court.

The current incarnation of the Special Criminal Court has previously heard that a second court may be established to deal with the backlog of cases.

In October, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald confirmed the establishment of a second court after expressing concern about delays of almost two years in cases coming to trial.

Legislation for the establishment of a second court was already in existence but had never been brought into play despite an increasing case load due to dissident republican activity. Seven serving judges were appointed to the bench of the new court.

Mr Justice Butler said today that reports appeared in the media last week which said he "did not believe a second court would be set up" and that he was "increasingly pessimistic" about the court's proposed establishment.

The judge said this was not the case and that his comment was a reference to the listing of a case of two Mayo brothers, accused of IRA membership and possession of explosives.

He further stated that the process of establishing a second Special Criminal Court, including the appointment of a registrar and judges, is under way.

There is "unlikely to be a second Special Criminal Court sitting before next term," Mr Justice Butler said. 

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