Interesting outworking of the Slab Murphy controversy. Sinn Fein’s position has been to suggest getting rid of the Republic’s Special Criminal Court (the juryless court which was responsible for convicting Murphy in a civil case). The new techniques which Mary Lou McDonald hinted at over the weekend appear to be putting jurors on what amounts to a witness protection programme…
“States throughout the world protect and value the basic right to a jury trial,” he said.
“Juries must of course be protected in carrying out their work and this can be achieved in a number of ways including having an anonymous jury, screening the jury from public view, protecting the jury during the trial, or locating the jury in a different place from where the trial is being held with communication by video link.
“Many states hear difficult cases without removing the right to a jury trial.”
In purist terms, most human rights lobby groups would uphold the principle of the right to a jury trial. And it may be true that the state which has such a provision may be tempted to use it more liberally than is strictly necessary.
Using a judge only court to prosecute a civil case may tell its own sorry story both about how flexible the provisions of the Special Criminal Court can be and, no doubt, the persistent perils attendant in challenging unofficial ‘community’ power wherever it exists.
But as one commentator on the Claire Byrne Saturday show on RTE Radio One put it, who really wants to be compelled to act as juror in any case against members of an organised crime syndicate of the type behind the Regency Hotel shooting at the weekend?