Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Thursday, 24 May 2012
Venue: Law Society House, Belfast
The meeting commenced at 2.05 p.m. in open session.
The Chairman placed on record the Committee’s appreciation to the Law Society for hosting the meeting.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 17 May 2012
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 17 May 2012.
3. Matters Arising
The Committee noted an up-dated Committee work programme for May and June 2012.
4. Briefing on a proposal for a Statutory Rule on Recovery of Defence Costs Orders (RDCOs)
Robert Crawford, Deputy Director, Public Legal Services Division and John Halliday and Jim Millar, Public Legal Services Division, joined the meeting at 2.07 p.m.
The officials briefed the Committee on proposals to introduce Recovery of Defence Costs Orders (RDCOs) to regulate the circumstances where convicted defendants in the Crown Court, who are in receipt of criminal legal aid, will be required to pay some or all of the costs of their defence, where the court considers that they have the means to pay such costs.
A detailed question and answer session followed covering a range of issues including the cost of administering RDCOs and how much the Department expected to recover if the proposals are fully implemented; the proposed application of a RDCO in relation to a family home; what account would be taken of a person’s change in circumstances; what account would be taken of hardship in reaching decisions; the level of discretion to be applied by the Judge; and whether assets held outside the jurisdiction could be recovered.
2.25 p.m. Mr McGlone joined the meeting.
The officials agreed to consider the issues raised by the Committee and to address them in the proposed Statutory Rule.
The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked the officials for the briefing and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it is content with the proposal for the Statutory Rule subject to appropriate account being taken of the issues raised.
5. Briefing on an Assembly Research Paper on Sentencing Comparisons in NI and England and Wales
Fiona O’Connell, Assembly Researcher, joined the meeting at 2.40 p.m.
Ms O’Connell outlined the key points contained in the research paper on comparative sentencing patterns between Northern Ireland and England and Wales and answered questions on a range of issues including the use of the fines in NI compared to community sentences and the lack of availability of recent sentencing data.
The Chairman thanked Ms O’Connell for the briefing and she left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice expressing concern regarding the lack of availability of recent sentencing data and requesting clarification of the specific reasons for the delay and when data for 2007 onwards will be published.
6. SR 2012/177 The Carriage of Explosives (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012
2.53 p.m. Mr Maginness left the meeting.
The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2012/177 to amend the Carriage of Explosives Regulations (NI) 2010 to take account of an EU Directive (Directive 2010/35/EU) and to revoke the labelling requirement of the Classification and Labelling of Explosives Regulations 1991 (CLER) and replace it with an industry code of conduct.
The Committee noted that the Examiner of Statutory Rules had highlighted that there was an elementary and minor drafting error but that it has no material effect on the operation of the Regulations.
Agreed: The Committee considered Statutory Rule 2012/177 The Carriage of Explosives (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and has no objection to the Rule.
7. Proposed Revisions to Police and Criminal Evidence (NI) Order 1989 (PACE) Codes of Practice C, E, F and H
The Committee noted proposals from the Department of Justice for revisions to Police and Criminal Evidence (NI) Order 1989 (PACE) Codes of Practice C, E, F and H which are required to reflect policy changes.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to highlight to the Department of Justice a range of concerns raised by a number of Members and noted that an SL1 will come to the Committee for consideration in due course.
8. Programme for Government 2011 – 15: Department of Justice Delivery Plans
The Committee noted the first version of the Department of Justice Programme for Government Delivery Plans.
9. Draft Discussion paper on Sharing Information about Family Proceedings Concerning Children
The Committee considered further information from the Department of Justice on its proposal to circulate a discussion paper to key stakeholders in the family justice system inviting views on specific circumstances in which information about family proceedings relating to children could be shared with people not involved in the proceedings but not the media or general public.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it is content for the discussion document to be circulated to key stakeholders for comments and it will consider any proposals in relation to this issue before a public consultation exercise is conducted.
i. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for information on any likely impact of the proposal to abolish the Department of Employment and Learning on justice related matters.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the response to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and to the Committee for Employment and Learning.
3.00 p.m. Mr Maginness rejoined the meeting.
ii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for a copy of a response to an individual’s complaint about the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
iii. The Committee noted a response from the PSNI to the Committee’s request for information on what action the PSNI is taking in response to information broadcast in a recent BBC documentary.
iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People regarding the Review of the Criminal Records Regime in Northern Ireland.
v. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Social Development requesting an up-date from the Department of Justice in relation to the ‘Lagan Rescue Service Advisory Group’ and the adoption of a cross-departmental approach.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice for a response.
vi. The Committee considered correspondence from the Northern Ireland Director of the Big Lottery Fund regarding projects aimed at helping young people to fulfil their potential and avoid pathways into offending which will be funded in Northern Ireland.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a visit to one or more of the projects into its Forward Work Programme.
vii. The Committee considered further correspondence from an individual regarding his complaint of maladministration in relation to the Office of the Police Ombudsman.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the individual outlining its role and remit.
viii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service providing the provisional figures for Mortgage: Actions for Possessions from January 2012 – February 2012.
ix. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development, requesting that the Committee for Justice forward a request to the Chief Constable to meet with the Chairman and deputy Chairman of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development in relation to “Rural/Agri-Crime”.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the request to the Chief Constable.
x. The Committee considered an invitation from the Department of Justice to take part in a study visit to Hull to inform consideration of ways to improve the management of youth cases as part of the work to address avoidable delay.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that either a Member of the Committee or a staff representative should undertake the visit.
xi. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding residual issues arising from the NICS equal pay settlement.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice for a response on the issues raised.
11. Chairman’s Business
12. Any other business
13. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting will take place on Thursday 31 May 2012 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.
3.05 p.m. the meeting was adjourned.
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
31 May 2012