Dungannon court cases suspended and cells cleared for G8 summit

DUNGANNON courthouse will be forced to suspend trials, and local police stations cells cleared for the expected arrest of troublemakers at the G8 summit in June.

A huge security operation is being put together to protect world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, when they meet in June at the Lough Erne golf resort and the court suspensions and extra custody arrangements are intended to complement the measures.

Campaigners have criticised police over the massive security operation anticipating trouble from protesters. Measures include creating extra cells capable of holding 350 people and imposing a ring of steel around the luxury Lough Erne golf resort in Co Fermanagh where the meeting of world leaders is being held on June 17 and 18.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Courts Service said that the Lord Chief Justice has indicated that local judges should avoid listing crown court trials or contests during the G8 period.

“If however there is a jury trial which is running and which commenced prior to this period then the expectation would be that this should continue to run”, added the spokesperson.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “PSNI will seek to maximise cell capacity across our existing custody estate. Whilst still in the planning stages we anticipate that we will have the capacity to accommodate in excess of 350 detained persons at any one time.”

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among those expected to attend a gathering representing some of the world’s leading economies hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Ford said the last time the G8 summit was held in the UK, in 2005 in Gleneagles in Scotland, 350 arrests were made on the first day.

“We need to ensure that our police and court systems can operate swiftly and effectively in the eyes of the world,” he added.

“We need to ensure those arrested can be brought quickly to court from police cells and for judges to make decisions on remands into prison custody or to grant bail.”

Courts and prisons staff will also step up workloads in the anticipation of extra arrests. An unused 108-capacity unit at Maghaberry high security prison in Co Antrim and a former army site in Co Tyrone could house those charged.

People Before Profit campaigner Eamonn McCann is helping organise an “alternative G8” focused on issues such as environmental protection, public spending cuts and nuclear disarmament.

He has accused the media of focusing on a violent minority and said past G8 demonstrators had been angered by the sight of US security forces on the streets.

Mr McCann said it was remarkable that the PSNI had been granted late-night sittings of courts to charge suspected offenders and demanded magistrates be made available on a Sunday without any opposition from local politicians.