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5 October 2000 Edition

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End non-jury courts - Sinn Fein

Gerry Adams has said that the retention of non jury courts and repressive laws, whether in the Six or the 26 Counties, is at odds with a credible human rights ethos.

Adams was speaking at the launch of a Sinn Féin response to the British government's Criminal Justice Review.

Criticising the review for ``failing to engage with the depth of alienation felt by nationalists and republicans,'' Sinn Féin called for the creation of an all-Ireland Constitutional Court and the establishment of an all-Ireland Law reform commission.

An urgent independent review of the Juvenile Justice System, the appointment in the north of a Minister for Children and the closure of Lisnevin Juvenile Centre were also urged by the party.

Sinn Fein believes the use of Public Interest Immunity Certificates should cease immediately and that the inquest system needs to be reformed.

``The issue of a new Policing Service is absolutely coupled with the future of the Criminal Justice System. Even if we get the perfect Policing Service, unless that Policing Service is working in harmony with a decent criminal justice system, the potential for division and alienation and abuse remains'', said Adams.

British Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson, is claiming that the Six Counties now leads the world in the protection and promotion of human rights. ``How does this claim square with no jury courts and repressive legislation,'' Adams retorted.

Michelle Gildernew, Sinn Féin Assembly member, said that under the Good Friday Agreement, the Criminal Justice System aimed to ``deliver a fair and impartial system of justice'', be ``responsive to the community's concerns'', and ``deliver justice efficiently and effectively''.

But the ability of the Criminal Justice Review to achieve these goals had been severely undermined by it being largely an internal review, conducted by Northern Ireland Office civil servants, with only an independent advisory element.

``The very bureaucrats who were responsible for a system that had already failed the democratic test, `` said Gildernew, ``were given the job of delivering a fair and impartial system of justice.

``The flaw was exacerbated by the fact that Diplock Courts and repressive legislation, the cornerstones of the Criminal Justice System were excluded from the ambit of the review,'' she believes.

The British Secretary of State recently announced his decision to retain the infamous Diplock Courts. ``This bodes ill for the proposed human rights ethos of any new Criminal Justice System,'' Gildernew said.

``The Criminal Justice Review provided an opportunity to transform a highly discredited and contentious justice system into one that could contribute in a real way to the prospects for peace and justice.

``Regrettably the review opted for a minimalist approach rather than the root and branch reform that is needed. The level of institutional resistance to change, that has characterised the Six-County judicial and administrative elite, is clear throughout the report.''

Gildernew warned at the launch, that failure to implement legislative change, including that envisged by the Patten Report, will seriously undermine nationalist confidence in the peace process. ``If the experience of the Patten report is to be repeated with the Criminal Justice Review then we face a grave problem.''
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