RARE reporting restrictions which bar the media from identifying five people charged with Provisional IRA membership have caused concern to an MLA.
The charges, which have been brought against three men and two women, relate to membership of the Provisional IRA from dates in 1999 and 2000.
Some of those facing charges are understood to be senior “mainstream” republicans.
However, court orders prohibit the media from reporting either the identities or addresses of the defendants.
There are two separate but related court cases and two sets of reporting restrictions.
For legal reasons, the News Letter is unable to report the legislation under which reporting restrictions were imposed on the first case, which came to court last year.
However, reporting restrictions in the second case, which came to court at the start of this month, were made under Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
A spokeswoman for the Office of the Lord Chief Justice said: “It would not be appropriate for this office to comment on the individual decision making of independent judges in relation to specific cases.
“Judges at all tiers routinely make reporting restriction orders for a variety of reasons, in a variety of cases, on a case by case basis.”
TUV leader Jim Allister QC, an experienced criminal barrister, said: “I am very concerned at the scale and novelty of the reporting restrictions.”
He added: “It is quite clear that there are political interests in respect of Sinn Fein who may find this case politically inconvenient.”
A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “The case and how it is conducted is entirely a matter for the courts.
“It is highly inappropriate for any politician or political party to comment or to interfere with that procedure.”
In advice on Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales says that “it is rare for the court to make such a direction in respect of a defendant”.
It adds: “Section 11 is not enacted for the comfort and feelings of defendants.”
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