All 1 Lord Trimble contributions to the Sentencing Act 2020

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Thu 25th Jun 2020
Sentencing Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading

Sentencing Bill [HL] Debate

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Sentencing Bill [HL]

Lord Trimble Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 25th June 2020

(4 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Trimble Portrait Lord Trimble (Con)
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My Lords, I have to start by apologising that I am not going to discuss the Bill before us, for very obvious reasons. Instead, I will use this occasion to draw attention to a discussion that seems to be going on at the moment about whether we should have more cases dealt with by judges sitting by themselves rather than by juries. I see that this discussion—I have not been following it very closely; it is just beginning to impinge upon my mind—is doing the usual thing: it is ignoring the fact that there is a lot of knowledge and experience on this subject in Northern Ireland, and that is not being reflected in the discussion that is taking place. If you are going to move to a situation of judge-only courts, you have to look at the safeguards that were put into what we called the Diplock courts in Northern Ireland, and that is a large part of the reason for the success of those.

I point to what, as I say, is the success of the Diplock courts by referring to one particular case: that of the Brighton bomber, who was eventually found, tried and convicted. His defence counsel was Dick Ferguson, who I knew well. Dick told me that when he went down to speak to the Brighton bomber afterwards, he found a very disgruntled man, who said, “Mr Ferguson, I would never have been convicted on that evidence in a Diplock court in Belfast.” The gentleman was of course a leading member of the IRA, and it is interesting to see how the republican movement has never launched any attack on the concept of the Diplock courts because its members know from experience that it works well. It may not be appropriate when we are thinking about situations here, but I say that you should look at the experience there before you come to a conclusion about whether you are going to increase the number of cases that are heard only by judges. To go ahead without looking at the experience in Northern Ireland would be foolish.