Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Thursday, 18 April 2013
Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings
The meeting commenced at 2.05 p.m. in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 11 April 2013
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 11 April 2013.
3. Matters Arising
i. The Committee considered a note of the discussion on future work items and its Forward Work Programme at the informal planning meeting that took place on 11 April 2013.
Agreed: The Committee agreed a range of actions to progress work priorities.
ii. The Committee considered arrangements for the Committee meeting and visit to be held in HM Prison Magilligan in May 2013.
Agreed: The Committee agreed the arrangements.
4. Briefing by the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland on its report on 'The Independence of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland - A Follow-up Review of Inspection Recommendations'
Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector, and Bill Priestley, Lead Inspector, Criminal Justice Inspection joined the meeting at 2.10 p.m.
2.14 p.m. Mr Patsy McGlone joined the meeting.
2.30 p.m. Mr Raymond McCartney joined the meeting.
Mr McGuigan outlined the findings of the follow up review,
A detailed question and answer session took place covering a range of issues including: measuring the outcome of the changes made in the Police Ombudsman's Office and assessing confidence in future report production; whether significant changes to the office had been made; the process of quality assuring reports; the relationship between the Police Ombudsman's Office and the PSNI; communication with families; the process to handle challenges to reports from key stakeholders in the future; whether CJI would make a future recommendation to suspend historic investigations if it was not satisfied with the quality of forthcoming reports; required investigative standards; when CJI will next review the Police Ombudsman's Office investigation reports; the identified resources and skills shortage in the Ombudsman's Office and the point in time at which this became apparent; the position regarding the Confidential Unit; and the implementation of the new Memorandum of Understanding between the Police Ombudsman and the Chief Constable.
The briefing was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked Mr McGuigan and Mr Priestly for the briefing and they left the meeting.
5. Briefing by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland on the recommencement of historical investigations by the Office of the Police Ombudsman
Dr Michael Maguire, Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Adrian McAllister, Chief Executive and Paul Holmes, Director of Historic Investigations, Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland joined the meeting at 2.56 p.m.
3.19 p.m. Ms Rosaleen McCorley joined the meeting.
Dr Maguire outlined progress in implementing the Criminal Justice Inspection report recommendations and the recommencement of historic investigations.
A detailed question and answer session took place covering a range of issues including: the publication of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Police Ombudsman's Office and the Department of Justice; the Ombudsman's view on when a future assessment of reports could be made; the review of the Confidential Unit and the new processes for the handling of confidential information; contact the Ombudsman has had with stakeholders; how the Office will engage with retired police officers; the new processes for quality assurance of reports and the management of challenge to reports; the level and types of internal checks and balances; changes to the staffing structure and accountability lines; the working relationship between the Police Ombudsman's Office and the PSNI and the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Police Ombudsman and the Chief Constable and communication with families.
3.36 p.m. Mr Raymond McCartney left the meeting.
6. SR 2013/81: The Costs Protection (Aarhus Convention) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013
The Committee considered SR 2013/81 The Costs Protection (Aarhus Convention) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 which provides a legislative scheme for protected costs orders to ensure the public has access to a court procedure to challenge decisions on environmental matters which is not prohibitively expensive.
Agreed: The Committee considered SR 2013/81 The Costs Protection (Aarhus Convention) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 and agreed that it was content with the Rule.
3.40 p.m. Mr Raymond McCartney joined the meeting.
7. SL1: Guidance on Human Rights Standards relevant to the Protection of the Right to Life
The Committee noted information provided by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland on a proposed Statutory Rule to bring his Guidance on Human Rights Standards Relevant to the Protection of the Right to Life into operation on 24 June 2013.
8. Commencement of Articles 19 and 20 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008
The Committee noted further information provided by the Minister of Justice on his proposal to commence Article 19 of the Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2008 which provides for early release on licence of certain categories of low risk prisoners and Article 20 which would allow the Department of Justice to release prisoners on compassionate grounds in exceptional circumstances.
9. Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) 1980 - Amendment to Order 109 Rule 5
The Committee noted further information provided by the Department of Justice on a proposed amendment to Order 109 Rule 5 of the Rules of the Court of Judicature.
10. New Victims and Witnesses draft 5 year strategy – consultation responses, revised strategy and action plan
The Committee considered a response from the Minister of Justice setting out further proposals for inclusion in the new Victims and Witnesses draft Strategy and Action Plan to address the concerns of the Committee that its Inquiry recommendation to introduce a maximum waiting time for witnesses was not being properly implemented.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that departmental officials should attend a meeting to discuss the issue further.
11. Draft Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the Protection of the Euro and Other Currencies against Counterfeiting by Criminal Law and Replacing Council Framework Decision 2000/383/JHA
The Committee considered information provided by the Department of Justice outlining the Minister of Justice's provisional support for the UK Government's proposed position to opt-out of the draft Directive on the basis that there would be little benefit from participation and possible unwelcome legislative consequences and seeking the Committees views.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Secretary of State for Justice expressing its dissatisfaction that the Minister of Justice had not been given sufficient time to properly consult the Committee for Justice on this matter.
i. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee's request for an explanation regarding the delay in completing three post project evaluations relating to two capital projects and one IT project.
ii. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to issues raised regarding the non-attendance of members at meetings and the policy in relation to the payment of expenses for a maximum of 20 meetings.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the Department's correspondence to the Chairman of Lisburn Policing and Community Safety Partnership who had raised the issues.
iii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice regarding the timescale for the way forward following the consultation on the Governance and Accountability of the Public Prosecution Service.
iv. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice regarding issues raised by a Mr and Mrs Shaw in relation to a Breach of Court Order.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to provide Mr and Mrs Shaw with a copy of the Department's letter and advise that a meeting with the Committee would not be appropriate given civil proceedings are on-going.
v. The Committee noted correspondence from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding a consultation on draft Rules to be included under Section 21 of the Inquiry into Historical Abuse Act (Northern Ireland) 2013.
vi. The Committee noted two letters from the Northern Ireland Law Commission regarding the possible inclusion of social workers in Northern Ireland in the UK-wide Review of the Regulation of Health Care Professionals.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to send a copy of the correspondence to Mr David McNarry MLA who had raised the issue.
vii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission regarding the appointment of Mr John O'Hara QC to the office of High Court Judge in Northern Ireland on 8 April 2013.
viii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding Equal Pay issues and a pay increase for PSNI civilian support staff.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice for clarification regarding the pay increase for PSNI civilian support staff.
ix. The Committee considered correspondence from an employee of the NI Legal Services Commission to the Minister of Justice regarding pay increases and pay progression, a copy of which had been sent to the Committee.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to ask the Minister of Justice to provide the Committee with a copy of any response issued to the individual for information.
x. The Committee considered an invitation from NIACRO to an event to launch papers and materials developed by the Challenge Hate Crime project on Thursday 25 April in the Skainos Centre, Belfast.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that Members would advise the Clerk if they wished to attend this event.
The Chairman took Agenda Item 15 next.
13. Interpretation of Section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988
Gareth Johnston, Head of Criminal Justice Policy and Legislation Division, Susan Nicholson, Operations Branch, Criminal Justice Policy and Legislation Division and Claire Archbold, Director, Departmental Solicitor's Office, Department of Finance and Personnel joined the meeting at 3.54 p.m.
Mr Raymond McCartney declared an interest in relation to his involvement with an on-going case.
The officials briefed the Committee on the interpretation of Section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
4.10 p.m. Mr Tom Elliott left the meeting.
A question and answer session followed covering issues including: the definition of 'miscarriage of justice'; the grounds for an appeal; the limitations of the role of the Minister of Justice; the process for handling claims; lack of face-to-face communication with applicants and whether there is an opportunity to include consultation with the applicant; the timescales involved in considering applications for compensation; details of the new arrangements and guidance; and the process for challenging decisions.
The briefing was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked the officials and they left the meeting.
14. Chairman's Business
The Chairman advised Members that the Committee had been invited to attend a lunch with the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Yemen and senior Yemeni leaders in Parliament Buildings on Thursday 25 April and indicated that he hoped to attend.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that Members should inform the Clerk of their availability to attend the lunch.
15. Any other business
The issue of a recent court case involving the Chairman of the Committee was raised and discussed.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that the statement read into the Court and the transcript of the television interview should be made available to Members.
16. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting will take place on Thursday 25 April 2013 at 2.00 pm in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.
The meeting was adjourned at 4.55 p.m.
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
25 April 2013