Northern Ireland

Trial involving Colin Duffy adjourned due to coronavirus

Trial involving Colin Duffy adjourned due to coronavirus
Trial involving Colin Duffy adjourned due to coronavirus

THE long-running non-jury trial involving Co Armagh dissident republican Colin Duffy and two co-accused has been adjourned.

The trial - which commenced in March 2019 - was listed as 'at hearing' in Court 16 at Laganside today. However, over the course of the previous few days, a decision was taken to adjourn the hearing.

All parties involved in the case were informed they did not need to attend court as the hearing has been suspended until at least the end of the Easter holidays in April.

Neither Duffy (52) nor his co-defendants Alex McCrory (58) and 51-year old Henry Fitzimons had to appear today. All three were charged with, and deny, offences arising from a gun attack on a police convoy in north Belfast in December 2013.

Whilst two Crown Courts sat in Belfast today there was very little business dealt with as it emerged that several barristers had sought adjournments remotely, which were granted.

Belfast man David Dixon was arraigned on two charges, and after he entered 'not guilty' pleas, instead of fixing a date for trial which is normal practice, the case was listed for mention only in May.

Dixon (57) from Victoria Parade was charged with unlawfully and maliciously wounding a man on July 13 last year, and of possessing a pool cue on the same date.

After he denied the charges, his barrister Joel Lindsay asked that the case be listed for trial.

However, Judge Stephen Fowler said fixing a date for mention would be more prudent, and when that date was fixed for May 8, the Judge told Mr Lindsay "you can communicate by email with me in relation to this case."

Earlier this week, both the Lord Chief Justice's Office and the NI Criminal Bar Association released statements regarding attending court in the current climate.

Following a meeting with representatives of the legal profession, the Lord Chief justice said he was aware of the court's responsibility to limit the scope of any risk to health, whilst maintaining the administration of justice.

As a result, he directed that from yesterday onwards, "judges should not require the attendance at court of persons who do not need to be there, or who express individual concerns."

The statement also revealed that staff were working to increase the amount of court business that can be dealt with via video link, Skype or telephone conference.

On Tuesday evening, an 'urgent message' was issued by the NI Criminal Bar Association in reaction to the CV19 outbreak.

Gavan Duffy QC, head of the NICBA, said the organisation had considered the many concerns of its members, as well as the government's advice on the risks posed.

In the statement, Mr Duffy said: "No members should attend court for the next two weeks (18th March - 1st April) unless the case qualifies as an emergency. For the avoidance of doubt, this recommendation also extends to Parole hearings at the prison."

He said an update to this advice will issue within the next two-week period."