Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Thursday, 11 April 2013
Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings
The meeting commenced at 2.06 p.m. in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 21 March 2013
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 21 March 2013.
3. Matters Arising
The Chairperson advised Members that issues/proposals discussed at the Committee informal planning meeting would be considered formally where necessary at next week's meeting.
4. SL1: The Lands Tribunal (Salaries) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013
The Committee considered a proposal to make a Statutory Rule under Section 2(5) of the Lands Tribunal and Compensation Act (Northern Ireland) 1964, as amended by Article 4 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Modification of Enactments) Order 2002, to provide for increases in the annual salary payable to the President and any other Member of the Lands Tribunal for Northern Ireland.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposed Statutory Rule and to request a copy of the most recent annual report published by the Lands Tribunal.
5. Proposed amendments to the Legal Aid (Assessment of Resources) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1981 - draft consultation document and draft Regulations
The Committee considered proposals by the Department of Justice to consult on proposed amendments to the Legal Aid (Assessment of Resources) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1981 following a judicial review challenging the Legal Aid Assessment Office's (LAAO) calculation of disposal income and consequent calculation of the contribution an applicant had to make to the legal aid fund.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation to take place and to consider the matter further when the results of the consultation are available.
The Committee noted that the Department was due to provide details, in tabular format, of its masterplan of all the legal aid changes currently under consideration and that this issue would be included in the plan.
6. Membership of the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission - draft consultation document and draft Order
2.11 p.m. Mr Alban Maginness joined the meeting.
The Committee considered a proposal by the Department of Justice to undertake a targeted consultation on proposals to reduce the prescribed number of members that make up the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission given the changes to the remit and status of the Commission.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the targeted consultation to take place and to consider the matter further when the results of the consultation are available.
7. Criminal Record Checks – Recent Court of Appeal Judgement in England and Wales
The Committee considered a briefing paper from the Department of Justice on the possible implications of a Court of Appeal ruling in England and Wales regarding criminal records checks and noted that cautions and similar disposals are not routinely disclosed by AccessNI and that the Minister had requested that policy options for a filtering scheme for the disclosure of information should be drawn up as quickly as possible.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek details of how the system in Northern Ireland operates compared to the system in England and Wales and the exact implications of the judgement taking into account that the position in Northern Ireland appears to differ in relation to cautions.
i. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice in relation to the Executive's proposed European Priorities and any justice issues that are included.
ii. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice in relation to its request for clarification regarding the reasons for the length of time it is taking to complete the review of how the Statutory Discount Rate should be set.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule an oral briefing by officials on the current position in relation to the Review of the Statutory Discount Rate.
iii. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice in relation to legal aid clients, the Solicitors Practice Regulations and the availability of Court Rules on-line.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the response to Mr Higgins who had raised the issues.
iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the report entitled "Business Case for an additional County Court Judge" which had been provided to the Committee by the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission.
v. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing an update on the Northern Ireland Prison Service Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme.
vi. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice providing clarification of the issues raised in the Research and Information Service briefing paper entitled "Financial Forecasting by the Department of Justice for 2012-13".
vii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a copy of a summary of the key findings of a study on 'Regarding merit in Judicial Appointments' which was undertaken by the School of Law, Queens University Belfast on behalf of the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a copy of the full study report.
viii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland advising that the draft Guidance on Human Right Standards relevant to the Protection of the Right to Life had been laid before the Assembly.
2.21 p.m. Mr Raymond McCartney joined the meeting.
ix. The Committee noted correspondence from a Mr Simpson in relation to the NICS Equal Pay Settlement claims and Pay Award for 2012 to PSNI Staff.
x. The Committee considered correspondence from the Bar Council providing two responses it had submitted to the recent Department of Justice consultations on the Review of Magistrates' Courts and County Court Appeals (Criminal Legal Aid) (Costs) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2009 and the Reform of Publicly funded legal representation in the Civil and Family Courts.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it wished to discuss these matters and civil legal aid matters in general with the Bar Council and other relevant stakeholders and intended to give further consideration to the format in which the discussions should take place at the end of April when the table setting out the legal aid changes from the Department should be available.
xi. The Committee noted a summary of progress on the delivery of Department of Justice capital projects detailed in the ISNI Delivery Tracking System.
xii. The Committee noted a copy of the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland Report on a Review of the Voluntary and Community Sector's involvement in the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice System.
xiii. The Committee noted a copy of the Criminal Justice Inspection newsletter 'The Spec' for March 2013.
xiv. The Committee noted a copy of the Court of Judicature Northern Ireland Land Purchase Account 2010-11.
xv. The Committee considered an invitation from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to visit the Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre at Antrim Area Hospital.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to visit the Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre and, given that the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety had already arranged to visit the Centre on 8 May 2013, to seek is agreement for a joint visit to take place on that date.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a written briefing paper from the Department of Justice on the justice aspects of the Centre to inform the visit.
xvi The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding an EU Directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes.
9. Chairman's Business
10. Any other business
A recent car crime incident involving a prisoner who was on compassionate release which resulted in the injury of a policeman was raised.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request information from the Department of Justice on the circumstances surrounding the granting of compassionate release for the prisoner.
11. Statutory Case Management - Consultation Responses and Proposals for Legislation
Maura Campbell and Chris Matthews, Criminal Justice Development Division, Department of Justice joined the meeting at 2.28 p.m.
The officials outlined the results of the consultation on options to place case management on a statutory basis, as recommended by the Committee in its Inquiry into the Criminal Justice Services available to Victims and Witnesses and the proposals for legislation.
A brief question and answering session followed covering issues including: whether any respondents to the consultation were opposed to Statutory Case Management; whether the proposed option achieved majority support from respondents; whether any work had been carried out to identify the expected benefits; and whether the preferred way forward of combining dilutes in any way the statutory obligations for case management.
The briefing was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked the officials and they left meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposals on how case management would be placed on a statutory footing.
12. Interpretation of Section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988
Due to the unavailability of witnesses this agenda item was not taken.
The meeting was adjourned at 2.36 p.m.
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
18 April 2013