Special Criminal Court


The Special Criminal Court only deals with criminal cases. It hears cases about paramilitary, subversive and organised crimes, but much of its workload now involves organised crime cases. The court sits with 3 judges and no jury, in order to avoid jury intimidation.

The Offences Against the State Act 1939 provides for the establishment of Special Criminal Courts. They are established when the ordinary courts may be unable to secure the effective administration of justice and the preservation of public peace and order.

Since 2016, there are two Special Criminal Courts. The Special Criminal Court 1 was established in 1972, and the Special Criminal Court 2 began to operate in 2016 in order to deal with the backlog of cases. A panel of serving judges from the High Court, Circuit Court and District Court are appointed to the Special Criminal Courts.


The Special Criminal Court has no civil jurisdiction and only hears criminal cases. Cases come before the Special Criminal Court in the following ways:

  • You can be charged directly before the Special Criminal Court
  • You can be sent from the District Court to the Special Criminal Court
  • Your case can be transferred from the Central Criminal Court or Circuit Court to the Special Criminal Court

The Special Criminal Court can deal with certain scheduled and non-scheduled offences. These scheduled offences generally involve subversive crime and are automatically transferred to the Special Criminal Court. However, the DPP can direct that a scheduled offence be tried before the ordinary criminal courts. Non-scheduled offences are cases that are referred to the Special Criminal Court by the DPP, because they feel the ordinary courts cannot deal with them adequately. These are the scheduled and non-scheduled of offences that can be dealt with by the Special Criminal Court:

  • Scheduled offences
    • Offences under Part 7 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 (excluding conspiracy)
    • Offences under the Explosive Substances Act 1883
    • Offences under the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2006
    • Offences under the Offences against the State Acts 1939 to 1998
    • Certain offences under the Malicious Damage Act 1861
    • Attempting, conspiring, inciting to commit, or aiding and abetting the commission of a scheduled offence
  • Non-scheduled offences
    • Any case that is not on the list of scheduled offences above can be heard in the Special Criminal Court, if the DPP believes the ordinary courts would be inadequate to secure the administration of justice and the preservation of public peace

You can appeal a conviction or sentence by a Special Criminal Court to the Court of Appeal.

Page edited: 15 January 2021