Northern Ireland

Call for all Diplock decisions to be dropped

A man whose murder conviction was quashed has said all verdicts in non-jury Diplock trials should be scrapped.

Patrick Livingstone served 17 years in prison for the killing of 26-year-old council worker Samuel Llewellyn in west Belfast in August 1975.

Last week, Court of Appeal judges ruled that the conviction was unsafe.

Diplock courts without juries have been used in Northern Ireland since 1973. The system was introduced to combat jury intimidation by paramilitaries.

In 1975, Mr Llewellyn was abducted as he delivered hardboard to a building in the Falls Road area which had been damaged by a bomb.

He was taken to a house nearby and shot.

Patrick Livingstone, now 62, was found guilty of the murder.

In an interview with the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, Mr Livingstone said he was "still trying to take in" last week's judgement of the Court of Appeal.

"You feel vindicated, you feel better about yourself, because you know you were right all along," he said.

'Inherently unsafe'

When he was convicted, Mr Livingstone was told he would serve the rest of his life in jail.

He was the first person in Northern Ireland to be given what was then called a "natural life" term, but he was released from jail in 1994.

He began the appeal process in 2007.

Mr Livingstone said there were other convictions from the past which were not fair.

"Diplock (non-jury) courts are inherently unsafe," he said.

"One man cannot sit up there and decide on your life.

"Diplock courts should be scrubbed now and all Diplock decisions should be expunged."

He also said he had "nothing but the greatest sympathy" for friends and family of Samuel Llewellyn.

The non-jury system is named after Lord Diplock, a former senior judge and Law Lord.

During the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, he chaired a commission which examined proposed changes in the administration of justice, in an attempt to deal with terrorist offences.

The commission published its report in December 1972 and non-jury courts were introduced the following year.

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