Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Thursday, 13 June 2013
Venue: Room 30
The meeting commenced at 2.37 p.m. in public session.
Apologies are listed above.
2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 6 June 2013
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 6 June 2013.
2.38 p.m. Mr Raymond McCartney joined the meeting.
3. Matters Arising
The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Criminal Justice Inspection follow up report would not be available for the oral briefing on the implementation of the Youth Justice Review scheduled for 4 July 2013.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to reschedule the briefing on the Youth Justice Review until after summer recess when the Criminal Justice Inspection follow up report would be available.
4. Office of the Police Ombudsman – Ministerial Briefing on the New Powers Package and Draft Consultation Document
The Minister of Justice, Mr David Ford, Ms Louise Warde Hunter, Head of Policing Policy and Strategy Division and Ms Mandy Morrison, Head of Legacy Branch, Department of Justice joined the meeting at 2.39 p.m.
2.39 p.m. Mr Seán Lynch joined the meeting.
2.40 p.m. Ms Rosaleen McCorley joined the meeting.
The Minister of Justice outlined a proposed new powers package for the Office of the Police Ombudsman covering a number of legislative proposals and some administrative measures upon which he intended to undertake a targeted consultation.
A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the rationale for the reduction in the term of office for the Police Ombudsman with the option to reappoint for a further term; the pace of change and the timeliness of proposed changes; whether some of the legislative changes could be included in the Faster, Fairer Justice Bill; whether the Police Ombudsman’s findings should be binding on the Chief Constable; the Police Ombudsman’s inability to interview agents/informers; whether the Committee for Justice and the Policing Board should have a scrutiny role in relation to the Memorandums of Understanding between the Police Ombudsman and the PSNI; the work being undertaken by the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland; the definition of civilian staff and the standards applied by the Ombudsman; the accountability arrangements for Agency staff; cooperation between retired former police officers and the Police Ombudsman; the legal opinion sought in relation to the appointment of the Interim Police Ombudsman; whether the Interim Police Ombudsman should be appointed by the First Minister and deputy First Minister; the package of proposals to further enhance the Office’s effectiveness; identification of trends and the need to distinguish between valid complaints and others; the proposed time limit for making maladministration complaints; whether complaints against staff not covered by the Police Ombudsman would be covered by the Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
The briefing was recorded by Hansard
The Chairman thanked the Minister of Justice and his officials for the briefing and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee noted the consultation paper on the new powers package for the Office of the Police Ombudsman and agreed to consider the matter further when the results of the consultation are available.
5. Prison Review Oversight Group Annual Report February 2012 - February 2013 - Briefing by Independent Members of the Prison Review Oversight Group
Mr Duncan McCausland, Mr Brendan McGuigan and Professor Monica Mc Williams, Independent Members of the Prison Review Oversight Group, joined the meeting at 3.22 p.m.
A detailed question and answer session took place covering issues including: the Oversight Group’s view of progress to implement the recommendations of the Review of the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS); the relationship between the Prison Officers’ and Governors’ Associations and senior management and the measures that need to be taken to improve relationships and communication; the level of communication between senior management and prison officers; the need for all involved to take ownership of the reforms; recruitment exercises and career/promotion opportunities for NIPS staff; whether changes are being imposed by people from other jurisdictions with a resultant lack of ownership by staff on the ground; the effect of the Target Operating Model on lock-up times for prisoners and the impact this has on the delivery of education and activities; general prisoner welfare; the importance of tailoring the Target Operating Model to each prison; the likelihood of a successful programme for prison reform; whether the Target Operating Model is undermining the principles of the Review Team’s recommendations; the treatment of women prisoners and their specific needs; the general low morale of prison officers including new recruits; the potential difficulties in retaining new recruits; the work and progress of the Change Management Team; the ways in which the Change Management Team could improve communication between prison staff and senior management; the lack of ‘changed outcomes’ for prisoners yet; the timescale for the re-evaluation of the Target Operating Model and the reasons for the delay; whether there is a need for external intervention; and the impact of the Target Operating Model on prison officer safety, in particular women prison officers.
3.40 p.m. Mr Patsy McGlone left the meeting.
4.45 p.m. Mr Alex Easton left the meeting.
The briefing was recorded by Hansard
The Chairman thanked the Independent Members of the Prison Review Oversight Group for the briefing and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that a briefing paper on the key issues raised during the oral evidence session with the Independent Members of the Prison Review Oversight Group should be prepared for the meeting on 20 June to enable a response from the Department of Justice on the issues raised.
6. Financial Provisions Bill 2013 – Provisions Relevant to the Department of Justice
The Committee noted information and the draft provisions provided by the Department of Justice on the justice related issues to be included within the Financial Provisions Bill.
i. The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice advising that he had asked the Pay Review Body to make a further assessment of the Prison Officers’ Association claim for an Environmental Allowance for prison staff.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request clarification of the rationale for referring the matter back to the Pay Review Body and the timescale for the further assessment for payment of an Environmental Allowance to prison staff to be made.
ii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice clarifying the position concerning the National Crime Agency (NCA) following Royal Assent for the Crime and Courts Bill on 25 April 2013.
iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that it had issued an Authorisation, under Section 29 of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007, for a section of the Lough bed at Lower Lough Erne West Channel, Co Fermanagh for the period 11 June until 16 June 2013.
iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that it intended to revoke a G8 Land Possession Authorisation as a different approach was now being taken with the agreement of the PSNI and the landowners.
v. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Minister of Justice had approved an Order, by virtue of Rule 5 (1) of the Prison and Young Offenders Centre Rules (Northern Ireland) 1995 as amended, to designate Beech House at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre as an adult prison to deal with the potential for large numbers of prisoners, including female prisoners, who may be charged and committed to custody with public order offences as a result of protests at the G8, for the period 12 June until no later than the end of August 2013.
vi. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment on Third Sector Mapping Exercises commissioned by the Department.
vii. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice in relation to issues raised regarding injury on duty awards for former police officers over the age of 65.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request clarification on whether the Injury on Duty Working Group that had been established by the NI Policing Board to discuss and resolve the injury on duty awards issue was an independent or an internal working group.
viii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister enclosing a copy of its letter to the Department of Justice in relation to the proposals for the Office of the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Ombudsman and inclusion of provisions in the Ombudsman Bill.
ix. The Committee noted the Lay Observer for Northern Ireland Annual Report for 2012 entitled ‘Continuing Progress’.
x. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice confirming the approval of a request from the PSNI to the Minister of Justice to make a ‘Sunday Courts Order’ in accordance with Section 13 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2013, for the period of the G8 Summit, and providing a copy of the Commencement Order.
4.51 p.m. Mr Raymond McCartney left the meeting.
8. Chairman’s Business
i. The Chairman informed Members that he hoped to avail of an invitation from Assistant Chief Constable Finlay, the Gold Commander for the G8 Summit, to observe the police operation either before or during the Summit.
ii. The Chairman updated Members on the useful and informative Committee visit to the Public Prosecution Service and the Witness Care Unit earlier in the day.
iii. The Chairman advised Members that he had attended the launch of the Department of Justice ‘Making a Difference’ Strategy, which the Committee for Justice Inquiry into the Criminal Justice Services available to Victims and Witness of Crime had helped to shape, and cited this as a good example of the Committee and the Department working together to address the needs of victims and witnesses.
9. Any Other Business
10. Date and time of next meeting
The next Committee meeting will take place on Thursday 20 June 2013 at 2.00 pm in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.
The meeting was adjourned at 4.56 p.m.
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
20 June 2013