Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Thursday, 24 January 2013
Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings
Agreed: The Committee agreed to commence the meeting in closed session to facilitate advice on an issue relating to the Criminal Justice Bill.
The meeting commenced at 2.13 p.m. in closed session.
1. Criminal Justice Bill – Committee Amendment
Eilis Haughey, Assembly Bill Clerk, joined the meeting at 2.13 p.m. Ms Haughey provided advice to the Committee in relation to its amendment to abolish the offence of scandalising the court and answered Members’ questions.
2.19 p.m. Mr Patsy McGlone joined the meeting.
2.20 p.m. Mr Tom Elliott joined the meeting.
The Chairman thanked Ms Haughey and she left the meeting.
The meeting moved into public session at 2.20 p.m.
Apologies are detailed above.
3. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 17 January 2013
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 17 January 2013.
4. Matters Arising
i. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the Committee amendment to abolish the offence of scandalising the court in Northern Ireland and considered the advice provided earlier by the Bill Clerk.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to include an additional provision in the amendment to clarify that abuse of a judge in the face of the court, or behaviour that otherwise interferes with particular proceedings, that is contempt of court and would also have been classed as scandalising the court, remains contempt of court.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to inform the Minister of Justice of the additional provision to be included in the amendment.
ii.The Chairman advised the Committee that the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety had also agreed that an Adhoc Committee consisting of Members from both Committees should be established to scrutinise the Mental Capacity Bill once the results of the consultation on the draft Bill are available.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to inform the Minister of Justice of the decision reached by both Committees.
5. Briefing by Assembly Researcher on Sentencing Comparisons in Northern Ireland and England and Wales
Fiona O’Connell, Assembly Researcher, joined the meeting at 2.23 p.m.
Ms O’Connell outlined the key points in her research paper on comparative sentencing patterns in Northern Ireland and England and Wales based on 2007 and 2008 data and answered questions on a range of issues including the difficulty in making comparisons between the different data sets and the lack of detail available regarding specific offences.
The Chairman thanked Ms O’Connell for the briefing and she left the meeting.
6. Briefing by the Prisoner Ombudsman on her recent report on the death by suicide of an inmate in Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre and other relevant issues
The Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Pauline McCabe, and Clare McVeigh, Senior Investigator, Office of the Prisoner Ombudsman joined the meeting at 2.35 p.m.
The Prisoner Ombudsman briefed the Committee on her recent reports on the deaths by suicide of an inmate in Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre and an inmate in Hydebank Wood Women’s Prison.
A question and answer session followed covering issues including: how the implementation of the Prisoner Ombudsman’s report recommendations are monitored; bullying in prisons and measures to tackle this; police investigation procedures in prisons; demands on prison staff and the availability of training; the effect on prisoners of lengthy periods of lock-up; record keeping; the implementation of the prison reform programme; the importance of purposeful activity for prisoners; the management of mental health issues in prisons; the availability of illegal and prescription drugs within prisons and actions being taken to address the problems; the appropriateness of prison for particular categories of prisoners with mental health problems; and the benefits and disadvantages of the SPAR system.
2.56 p.m. Mr Patsy McGlone left the meeting.
The Chairman thanked Ms McCabe and Ms McVeigh and they left the meeting.
7. Violent Offender Order Policy Proposals
Gareth Johnston, Head of Criminal Justice Policy and Legislation Division, Amanda Patterson, Head of Criminal Policy Branch and Lorraine Ferguson, Criminal Policy Branch, Department of Justice joined the meeting at 3.27 p.m.
The officials briefed the Committee on the Violent Offender Order (VOO) Policy Proposals and answered questions regarding the proposal to include a minimum and maximum term rather than leave the duration of the VOO to be determined solely by the court as originally suggested.
The briefing was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked the officials and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the policy proposals for Violent Offender Orders which would be brought forward as part of the Faster, Fairer Justice Bill.
8. GRETA Report Analysis - Implications for Northern Ireland and proposals for action
The Committee noted an analysis provided by the Department of Justice of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) report concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by the United Kingdom, its implications for Northern Ireland and the action being taken by the Department.
i. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice in relation to the Pilot Prison Education Programme – ‘Inside Out’, confirming that it had been agreed in principle to run the programme at HM Prison Magilligan.
ii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice in relation to the consultation which is being undertaken by the Law Commissions of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland entitled ‘Regulation of Health Care Professionals’.
iii. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice regarding ways in which Cruse Bereavement Care could be sign-posted to the criminal justice agencies and community organisations who deal with offenders diverted from custody.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to Cruse Bereavement Care for information.
iv. The Committee considered correspondence from the Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure proposing a co-ordinated visit by Statutory Committees to Londonderry/Derry during its year as the UK City of Culture.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content in principle to hold a meeting as part of a co-ordinated visit by Statutory Committees.
v. The Committee noted correspondence from the Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure providing the terms of reference for its Investigation into Gaps in Child Protection and Safeguarding across the Culture, Arts and Leisure remit.
vi. The Committee noted a response from Mr Alasdair McLaughlin, Independent Assessor for Complaints for the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland, to its request for information on how the complaints process operates and who is eligible to submit a complaint.
vii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Clerk to the Committee for Finance and Personnel attaching briefing papers from the Department of Finance and Personnel and the Special European Union Programmes Body on EU funding issues, including the outcome of the consultation into future EU funding programmes.
viii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing an update on the proposed Legislative Consent Motion for the Crime and Courts Bill.
ix. The Committee considered the Criminal Justice Inspection report of its follow-up review of inspection recommendations relating to the independence of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule an oral evidence session with the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland on the report into the work programme.
x. The Committee considered correspondence from the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland advising that historical investigations by his office would recommence on 23 January 2013 following the report by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule an oral evidence session with the Police Ombudsman on the matter into the work programme.
xi. The Committee considered further correspondence from Mr Noel Hammond in relation to approval of the PSNI business case to pay the NICS Pay Award for 2012 to PSNI staff.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward Mr Hammond’s correspondence to the Department of Justice and ask that it address any additional issues raised in its response to the Committee.
10. Chairman’s Business
The Chairman advised the Committee that he and the Deputy Chairman would take part in the Attorney General’s Living Law programme on 5 February 2013.
11. Any Other Business
12. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting will take place on Thursday 31 January 2013 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.
3.46 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
31 January 2013