Anti-terror court wait times reduced by nine months, report reveals

Waiting times for cases to be heard before the anti-terror courts almost halved last year, a report revealed.

The judge-only Special Criminal Court deals with organised or paramilitary-related violence where it is too risky to use a jury.

Much of the judges' focus is on cases involving alleged dissident republicans.

A second court was established in April last year to help clear a backlog of trials.

Retiring chief justice Susan Denham said: "The (Courts) Service worked hard to help with the establishment of the second Special Criminal Court, which led to a reduction in waiting times from two years to 15 months."

The court, which sits with three judges but no jury, deals with terrorist or organised criminal groups where jurors may be intimidated.

A total of 60 new cases were received in 2016 and 67 were resolved.

Most of the cases involved membership of an illegal organisation or possession of firearms or explosives.

Two murder suspects were received into the system for trial. A total of 45 people were imprisoned.

Among those to be dealt with by the court last year included Thomas "Slab" Murphy.

The prominent republican from Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, was found guilty of nine charges last year and imprisoned for 18 months.

The three-judge court was established in 1972 by then minister for justice Des O'Malley at the height of the Troubles.

It dealt mainly with activities of the Provisional IRA and INLA.

The judges also heard trials linked to John Gilligan's drugs gang.

Feuding organised crime gangs have been blamed for a series of murders in recent times in the capital.

Plans for the establishment of a second court were met with widespread criticism from human rights groups due to the absence of a jury.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said before last year's Dail elections the party would abolish the Special Criminal Court.

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