Diplock Courts

A serious question and answer session this evening!! wooton

Yesterday’s post mentioned that Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton were tried, convicted and sentenced in a non jury ‘Diplock’ court.



What’s a Diplock Court?

Diplock courts operate with a single judge and no jury questions

When did they start? 1973

Why? They were created to try serious criminal cases alleged to be connected with the Irish Troubles

Why? Lord Diplock’s report cited concerns about juror intimidation and

the danger of perverse convictions by partisan jurors.

Lord Diplock believed that jurors would be incapable of performing their civic duty if they feared terrorist attacks. So jury trials for crimes connected to terrorist activity were abolished

Is that a reasonable pretext?

jury's out

Regardless of whether and to what extent juror intimidation did exist, replacing juries with one judge did not solve the problem of intimidation of the court’s decision-maker.Judges have been subject to terrorist threats and attacks throughout the years.

How were Diplock courts set up?

Through the Northern Ireland [Emergency Provisions Act 1973, ch. 53 (England)] which

*abolished the right to jury trial in many serious criminal cases and the right to silence

*authorized “preventive” incarceration without probable cause,

*relaxed standards for admission of coerced confessions,

*permitted reliance on the uncorroborated testimony of so-called “supergrasses”  and anonymous witnesses who were allowed to testify from behind screens and whose identities were unknown

diplock 2

Does this satisfy the standards of a fair trial? judge

Judges sitting alone can  independently hold trial.

What’s the role of the Judge in the Diplock court?

Judge, jury and executioner

S/he no longer plays an unbiased umpire role

S/he may be influenced by his/her own political and religious ideals

S/he may be influenced by evidence that would otherwise not be admitted and given to a jury

Aren’t Diplock courts more inquisitorial than other courts?

Diplock judges can deliver a judgment and then give any reason, without having to comply with specific guidelines justice3


magna carta

What about the Magna Carta?

Non-jury trials are not a breach of the right to a fair trial

The right to trial by jury  is not an international human right. puzzled

So what is it?

Jury trials are  linked to the common law system in legislation. Non-jury trials undermine this principle and weaken public confidence in the justice system     paul mendelle

Paul Mendelle QC, Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association says:

in principle I’m against trial without jury”

“Some principles of justice are beyond price. Trial by your peers is one of them.”


Why’s a jury court a better system?

Participation makes citizens more likely to perceive their government and judiciary as fair and just.

The jury system can help shield judges from political interference by limiting the judge’s decision-making power and reducing the influence of outside political pressure on judicial decisions.

A jury composed of a representative group of citizens is more likely to reach a verdict  grounded in evidence and supported by legal experts


thinks again

How many people have been up before a Diplock court?

Approximately one in three serious criminal cases in Ulster

What’s the conviction rate?

Much higher “ordinary” (non-Diplock) criminal courts

Do the Diplock courts convict really guilty people?

They improperly convicted more innocent suspects than jury trials. what did you say

So do  Diplock judges become “case hardened,” or biased against the accused? Apparently so. Diplock acquittals “decreased from 53% in 1984 to 29% in 1993.” Acquittal rates for criminal trials by jury remained steady, at 49% in 1984 and 48% in 1993. The higher reversal rate suggests that there were flaws within the Diplock system itself

What evidence do Diplock courts  want for convictions?

Mostly confessions and uncorroborated testimony by government informants, or “supergrasses.”

Comment: The Diplock court resembles more a military court-martial rather than an open and transparent civilian court you would expect from a western democracy, such as the United Kingdom


thinks again

Are the Diplock courts part of the British response to insurrection?

Probably – look at the Culloden soldiers

The 1916 leaders

And the London rioters

A specialised unit, consisting of 30 staff, including 10 prosecutors, was set up to deal with riot offences. Courts opened overnight to clear the backlog with prosecutors from across the region travelling to London to help out. The youngest defendant dealt with by the CPS was aged 11 years and six months.

What were the sentences like?

2 men were jailed for four years for posting Facebook messages inciting rioting even though no disorder occurred.

A 23-year-old man was sentenced to six months in prison for stealing £3.50 worth of water



Weren’t Diplock courts abolished with the GFA/BelfastAgreement?

Yes, technically in 2007 but Northern Ireland continues to allow non-jury trials of suspected members of paramilitary organizations that are similar to the old Diplock courts


. ni office

Successive secretaries of state have ruled the threat of intimidation meant the controversial trials should continue.

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.”

Comments: The power to refer paramilitary suspects to non-jury, Diplock-type trials still exists today.

Between July 2007 and July 2009 the DPP issued certificates for 41 cases to be tried by Diplock-type non-jury courts.

Retaining Diplock-type courts hinders Northern Ireland’s goal of democratic peace.


http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=959 http://www.tilj.org/content/journal/45/num3/Jacobs655.pdf http://www.thedetail.tv/issues/5/diplock-courts-story/non-jury-trials-form-of-normality http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-19111720 http://www.theweek.co.uk/politics/3003/riot-jail-sentences-%E2%80%98unfair-and-disproportionate%E2%80%99 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14553330 http://www.drumart.com/gallery.html?q=&heads=84&p=35 http://www.disbanded.co.uk/Disbanded_Details.html http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8454102.stm http://patreenakam.blogspot.it/2010/06/im-puzzled.html http://www.legaljuice.com/category/here-comes-the-judge http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/articles/worldhistory/magnacarta.htm http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8583127.stm http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/263381565?view_mode=2 http://www.comicvine.com/forums/off-topic-5/what-do-you-think-comic-vinewould-it-be-rape-742508/

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