Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 16 February 2012

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 2.04 p.m. in public session.

1.        Apologies

None.

2.        Draft minutes of the meeting held on 9 February 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 9 February 2012.

3.        Matters Arising

i. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice outlining the reforms being introduced to tackle delay in criminal cases and prepare for the introduction of statutory time limits.

2.06 p.m. Ms McCann joined the meeting.

2.06 p.m. Mr Lynch joined the meeting.

ii. The Committee noted an up-dated forward work programme for February and March 2012.

4.    Briefing by the Chief Constable and Senior Officers on the PSNI Budget

Chief Constable Matt Baggott, Assistant Chief Constable Dave Jones, Rural Region, Joe Stewart, Director of Human Resources and David Best, Director of Finance and Support Services joined the meeting at 2.07 p.m.

The Chief Constable outlined the PSNI budget and key resource and savings delivery challenges and highlighted issues relating to procurement practice and the financial architecture.

A question and answer session followed including the key pressures arising from the need to deliver baseline savings of £135 million; whether there will be a need to request further funding from the Treasury for 2015 onwards; what flexibility there is in the budget for future planning; the delays faced in progressing business cases and procurement projects; the need to extend funding for the Historical Enquiries Team for a further 2 years for it to complete its work; the use of agency staff including retired RUC officers; the roles carried out under Managed Service Contract and the renewal of the contract; the increased cost of the Managed Service Contract as highlighted in a CJI report;  the proposed closure of local police stations; the cost of policing in Northern Ireland compared to other regions; how the PSNI will interact with the National Crime Agency; how to speed up justice and the proposed introduction of statutory time limits; the financial cost of investigating historical issues; the level of alcohol related crimes and measures to tackle cheap alcohol; the need for cross-departmental working to tackle the causes of crime; and the impact of rural crime.

2.16 p.m. Mr Weir joined the meeting.

2.27 p.m. Mr Maginness joined the meeting.

2.41 p.m. Mr Eastwood joined the meeting.

3.25 p.m. Mr Weir left the meeting.

4.30 p.m. Mr Eastwood left the meeting. 

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked the Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, Assistant Chief Constable Dave Jones and David Best, Director of Finance and Support Services for the briefing and they left the meeting.

5.        Inquiry into the Criminal Justice Services available to victims and witnesses of crime

Briefing by Skills for Justice

Judith Thompson, Manager, Skills for Justice, Amanda Ryalls, Operations Director, Skills for Justice, and Susan Reid, Member of NI Country Group, Skills for Justice joined Joe Stewart, Chairman, NI Country Group at the table at 4.37 p.m.

The representatives briefly outlined the work of Skills for Justice and in particular how it relates to improving the experience of and support provided to victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system.   

4.55 p.m. Mr McCartney left the meeting.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including how criminal justice organisations use the qualifications and accreditation framework; the uptake of victim and witness relating training within the PSNI; the numbers in Northern Ireland with qualifications in working with victims and witnesses of crime; the process involved in developing national standards; the possible benefit of the Skills for Justice training programmes to the Police and Community Safety Partnerships; the nature of advanced apprenticeships; and the role of Skills for Justice in the Desertcreat Training College. 

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked the representatives from Skills for Justice for the briefing and they left the meeting.

Update paper on the Inquiry

The Committee considered a paper outlining the current position in relation to the Committee Inquiry into the Criminal Justice Services available to victims and witnesses of crime.

Agreed:           The Committee agreed that the formal oral evidence phase of the Inquiry was complete.

Agreed:           The Committee agreed to meet informally with those individual victims and witnesses who have indicated their willingness to do so.

Agreed:           The Committee agreed that a visit to a Witness Care Unit in England should be arranged before the Inquiry is completed.  

6.    Briefing on Pathways – An Interim Framework for the Resettlement of Offenders in NI

Max Murray, Director of Offender Services, Northern Ireland Prison Service, Mark Goodfellow, Head of Offender Services, Northern Ireland Prison Service, Paul Bullick, Head of Resettlement, Northern Ireland Prison Service and Roisin Muldoon, Assistant Director, Probation Board of Northern Ireland joined the meeting at 5.01 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on the development of an interim framework for the resettlement of offenders in Northern Ireland.

5.38 p.m. Mr Dickson left the meeting.

5.48 p.m. Ms McCann left the meeting.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including the range of community groups that are key partners; how the work envisaged by the framework will be resourced; whether the work is already being carried out; the need to focus better on delivery of the services; when outcomes from the strategy are expected; the impact of working practices on the delivery of programmes and training and how the reform programme will change this; and the need to ensure appropriate and relevant skills training is provided. 

The officials agreed to provide the Committee with results of the comprehensive needs analysis when available.

The Chairman thanked the officials for the briefing and they left the meeting.

7.        Court Rules Forward Work Programme up to March 2012

The Committee considered a programme of Courts Rules to be progressed before the end of March 2012.

Agreed:           The Committee agreed that it wished to receive SL1s in relation to the following 6 Court Rules:

  • Insert a new provision into Order 62 of the Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) 1980 in relation to protected costs orders in environmental judicial reviews.
  • Amend the Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) 1980 to make provision in relation to solicitors exercising extended Rights of Audience.
  • Amendment to the Crown Court Rules (Northern Ireland) 1979 to insert a new rule in relation to the release of certificates of conviction,
  • Insert new provision into the County Court Rules (Northern Ireland) 1981 to prescribe time limits for compromise agreements in the Industrial and Fair Employment Tribunals,
  • Amend provision in the County Court Rules (Northern Ireland) 1981 to specify costs for matters falling within the proposed increased jurisdiction of £30,000.
  • Amendments to Magistrates’ Courts Rules (Northern Ireland) 1984 in consequence of provision made in the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

8.        Legal Advice on Sex Offender Notification Requirements

The Committee noted legal advice provided in relation to the Department of Justice’s final policy proposals for a review mechanism for periods of indefinite notification with regard to sexual offences which are to be included in a Bill to be introduced in the Assembly.

9.        Up-date on Review of Court Orders in Sexual Offences Cases

The Committee considered information on progress with the Court Service review of court orders made in sexual offences from 1997 to 2011 and in particular the review of the 278 cases in which the court had not made an order disqualifying the defendant from working with children nor gave reasons for not doing so. 

Agreed:            The Committee agreed to request information on the key reasons why disqualification orders had not been considered necessary in 105 cases.

10.    Review of Community Sentences

The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice providing a profile of the offences of prisoners serving sentences of 3 months or less on 26 January 2012. The information had been requested to assist consideration of proposals on the way forward in relation to Community Sentences.

 Agreed:          The Committee agreed to request further information on the nature of the offences outlined in the profile.

Agreed:          The Committee agreed to refer the Hansard of the oral briefing on the Review of Community Sentences to the Minister of Justice highlighting the views expressed by Members on his proposals.

11.    Assembly Research Paper on Filming in Court

The Committee considered a research paper on the position in Northern Ireland in relation to the filming of court proceedings and the position in other jurisdictions. 

Agreed:          The Committee write to request an update on any plans the Minister of Justice has to lift the ban on filming in Northern Ireland Courts, particularly in light of proposals in England and Wales and drawing his attention to the views of Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales, that filming in court should be allowed. 

12.    Correspondence

i. The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the National Crime Agency.

Agreed:          The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Justice indicating that, given the need for primary legislation to take account of Northern Ireland arrangements, he should give serious consideration to the use of an Assembly Bill rather than a Legislative Consent Motion.

ii. The Committee considered a response from the Minister of Justice to concerns raised by Lisburn District Policing Partnership regarding the proposed civilianisation of the serving of non-molestation orders.

Agreed:          The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to Lisburn District Policing Partnership highlighting that the role of the PSNI in the serving of non-molestation orders will not change.

iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the development of manuals for the PSNI, An Garda Síochána, the Public Prosecution Service and the Department of Public Prosecutions in the Republic of Ireland on the investigation and prosecution of offences with a significant cross-border element.

iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a copy of the Concordat between Her Majesty’s Government and the Northern Ireland Executive on the Independence of the Judiciary in Northern Ireland.

v. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing information on the current position in relation to the on-going monitoring of Post Project Evaluations (PPE).

Agreed:          The Committee agreed to request information from the Department of Justice on the reasons for the delay in completing two PPEs and the projects they relate to.

vi. The Committee considered correspondence from a Peace and Reconciliation Group regarding a proposal for a prison education programme called “Inside Out: Northern Ireland”.

Agreed:          The Committee agreed to forward the proposal to the Department of Justice with a request that consideration is given to the proposal and a copy of the response issued be provided to the Committee.

Agreed:          The Committee agreed to hold an informal meeting with representatives from the Peace and Reconciliation Group.

vii. The Committee noted correspondence from a Mr Hammond regarding delays in NICS pay awards to PSNI civilian staff.

viii. The Committee noted a report from the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) into Learning and Skills provision by the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

ix. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the launch of the recruitment campaign for Custody Officers in the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

x. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Regional Development regarding its Inquiry into un-adopted roads in Northern Ireland.

Agreed:           The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Chief Constable.

xi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice highlighting revisions it had made to its proposed Consultation document on its Draft Disability Action Plan in light of issues raised by the Committee.

13.    Chairman’s Business

The Chairman informed the Committee that he had received a request from the Chairman and Deputy Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee to meet with him and the Deputy Chairman to discuss rural crime and explore options to take the issue further.

14.    Any other business

None.

15.    Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 23 February at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

 6.25 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
23 February 2012

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