Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 26 April 2012

Venue: Room 30

The meeting commenced at 2.06 p.m. in closed session.

1. Review of Judicial Appointments in Northern Ireland – Consideration of Draft Report

2.10 p.m. Ms McCann joined the meeting.

The Committee considered a draft report on the Review of Judicial Appointments. No amendments were proposed.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider and approve the final report later in the meeting.

2.31 p.m. The meeting moved into public session.

The Chairman welcomed Mr Tom Elliott and Mr Patsy McGlone to the meeting following their appointment as members of the Committee.

The Committee noted Mr Elliott’s and Mr McGlone’s entries in the Register of Members’ Interests.

2. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

3. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 19 April 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 19 April 2012.

4. Matters Arising

i. The Committee noted an up-dated Forward Work Programme.

ii. The Chairman advised Members that the Policing Board is expected to publish the appointments of independent members to the PCSPs and DPCSPs in early May and there are four Council areas where the Board has not been able to make all of the appointments.
Agreed:
The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice and the Policing Board to request clarification on how the gaps in appointments will be filled and the likely timescale for this.

iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Attorney General outlining that he would be unable to attend a meeting to explain the basis for his decision to bring a prosecution against former Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Peter Hain, and Biteback Publishing for contempt of court for criticising a judge in accordance with the usual approach to pending proceedings.  The Committee noted that the correspondence raised further questions.

Agreed: The agreed to return to this matter at a more appropriate time in the future.

5. Briefing on Part Two of the Review of the Criminal Records Regime in Northern Ireland

Mrs Sunita Mason, the Independent Advisor for Criminality Information Management in England and Wales and Ms Frances Martin, Criminal Record Review Support Team joined the meeting at 2.40 p.m.

2.40 p.m. Mr Maginness left the meeting.

Mrs Mason briefly outlined the key findings and recommendations of her Part Two report of the Review of the criminal records regime which deals with broader aspects of the management storage, access and retention of criminal records in Northern Ireland.

A question and answer session followed covering issues such as: the proposed wording of the definition of a criminal record, the need for harmonisation across jurisdictions; the purpose of a review of offences categorised as ‘recordable’ and ‘non-recordable’; whether occurrences of ‘arrest without subsequent charge’ are currently recorded; whether there should be provision for retention of individual’s criminal record after 100 years in certain circumstances such as for historical reasons; and whether individuals are automatically informed when a conviction is spent.

2.59 p.m. Mr Weir left the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Mrs Mason for the work that she has completed on the Review and Mrs Mason and Ms Martin left the meeting.

6. Draft consultation on the Review of the Criminal Records Regime in Northern Ireland - Part Two of the Report and two recommendations from the Part One Report

Ms Maura Campbell, Criminal Justice Development Division, Mr Gary Archibald, Criminal Justice Development Division, Mrs Debbie Pritchard, Protection and Organised Crime Division and Mr Tom Clarke, AccessNI joined the meeting at 3.04 p.m.

3.06 p.m. Mr Weir rejoined the meeting.

The officials briefed the Committee on proposals to consult on some of the recommendations contained in the Part Two Report on the Review of the Criminal Records Regime in Northern Ireland and on two recommendations contained in Part One of the Report and answered a question regarding whether there was a need to enhance the current collaborative arrangements for sharing of individual criminal record information between police services in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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 was content for the consultation to take place as outlined and to consider the matter further once the results of the consultation exercise are available.

The Chairperson advised members that due to the availability of witnesses the order of the meeting would vary from that detailed in the agenda. 

7. SR 2012/122 The Valuation Tribunal (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2012/122 which amends the Valuation Tribunal Rules (Northern Ireland) 2007 to make provision to regulate the practice and procedure of high hedge appeal proceedings before the NI Valuation Tribunal.

The Committee noted that the Examiner of Statutory Rules has raised an issue with the Rule on the ground that one of its provisions, providing for a fee in respect of high hedge appeals, appears to have an element of unauthorised sub-delegation and in light of this, the Department of Justice intends to bring forward an amendment before the summer to address this.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request clarification regarding why the amendment could not be laid before the statutory period runs out and to return to the matter at the next meeting on 3 May 2012.

8. SR 2012/135 The Criminal Aid Certificate Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No SR 2012/135 which amends the circumstances where the court can assign two counsel to a defendant in a Crown Court case.

The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice enclosing his response to the Chairman of the Bar Council in relation to issues raised regarding the Statutory Rule.

Agreed: The Committee considered Statutory Rule 2012/135 The Criminal Aid Certificate Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012 and has no objection to the Rule.

9. Draft Consultation on the Northern Ireland Prison Service Outline Estate Strategy

Mr Colin McConnell, Director General of the NI Prison Service, Mr Geoff Rossington, Infrastructure Change Manager, Mr Gary Boyd, Director of Finance, Planning and Corporate Compliance and Mr Max Murray, Director of Offender Services joined the meeting at 3.19 p.m.

The officials outlined proposals to consult on the NI Prison Service Outline Estate Strategy.

3.47 p.m. Mr Maginness rejoined the meeting.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues such as the rationale for the proposed closure of Magilligan Prison and the location of the new accommodation in the Greater Belfast area; the economic impact of the proposed closure on the North West; the impact on prison staff employed at the Magilligan prison if it closed; the rationale for moving the “Working Out”  Unit to Maghaberry prison; the planned accommodation for high risk prisoners a separated regime; the provision of accommodation for a separate regime; the forecast prisoner population in the future; the likely costs of staff relocation if Magilligan is closed; collaborative working arrangements with the Department of Employment and Learning regarding the development of the ‘secure college’ concept for Hydebank Wood; provision of facilities and services to address mental health issues; plans to provide contingency accommodation including the use of former accommodation at Lisnevin/Millisle; what role the Oversight Committee would play once the consultation was completed; whether the outcome of the consultation had been pre-empted with the proposed closure of Magilligan prison; and what consideration is being given to private sector involvement in the provision of prisons.

4.22 p.m. Ms McCann left the meeting.

4.35 Mr McGlone left the meeting.

4.48 Mr Maginness left the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked the officials for the briefing and wished Mr McConnell well in his future post as the new Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service.  The officials then left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee noted the proposed consultation on the Outline Estate Strategy and agreed to consider the matter further once the results of the consultation exercise are available.

4.51 p.m. Mr McCartney left the meeting.

4.51 p.m. Mr Maginness rejoined the meeting.

10. Correspondence

i. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to its request for further information on the consultation on fine measures in Northern Ireland.

ii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing an updated Action Plan in response to the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland report on the care and treatment of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the updated Action Plan to the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice for his views on whether the issues raised had been addressed.

iii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety requesting an update from the Department of Justice on the actions taken to address the issue of suicide and self-harm.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice for a response.

iv. The Committee noted a response from the PSNI to its request for clarification on behalf of the Committee for Education on whether the PSNI participates in a joint initiative with the DVANI called Operation Coachman.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Committee for Education.

v. The Committee noted further correspondence from Women’s Aid ABCLN raising additional issues regarding the need for an Information Sharing Agreement in relation to MARAC meetings.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice for a response.

vi. The Committee noted further correspondence from Mr Lennon regarding his complaint about the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice.

vii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Chairman of the Human Rights and Professional Standards Committee, NI Policing Board, regarding the consultation on the future operation of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Human Rights and Professional Standards Committee noting its approach and that it will provide a copy of its agreed response in due course.

viii. The Committee noted the Criminal Justice Inspectorate Report on the use of special measures in the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.

11. Chairman’s Business

The Chairman informed Members that he and the Deputy Chairman had met informally with Mr McIlwaine and Mr McCord regarding the use of the SOCPA legislation prior to the Committee meeting.

During the meeting several issues had been raised including the fact that Mr McIlwaine was unhappy that the case involving the murder of his son had been highlighted by the Minister of Justice as a successful example of the SOCPA provisions; that families needed to be consulted and informed when cases were being taken under the SOCPA legislation; and the lack of a laid down process to deal with offenders whose evidence is proven to be unreliable in court to reinstate their full sentences needed to be addressed.

Agreed: The Committee noted that Mr McIlwaine is due to meet the Minister of Justice and agreed to return to this matter in due course.

12. Review of Judicial Appointments in Northern Ireland – Formal consideration of Draft Report

The Committee formally agreed the final draft of the Report of the Review of Judicial Appointments in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: that the title page, Committee Membership and Powers, and Table of Contents stands part of the report put and agreed to. 

Agreed: that paragraphs 1 to 11 stand part of the Report. 

Agreed: that paragraphs 12 to 22 stand part of the Report. 

Agreed: that paragraphs 23 to 91 stand part of the Report. 

Agreed: that paragraphs 92 to 105 stand part of the Report. 

Agreed: that paragraphs 106 to 131 stand part of the Report. 

Agreed: that paragraphs 132 to 133 stand part of the Report. 

Agreed: that the Appendices stand part of the Report. 

Agreed: that the Executive Summary stands part of the Report. 

Agreed: that the Chairman approve an extract of the Minutes of Proceedings of today’s meeting for inclusion in Appendix 1. 

Agreed:  that the report on the Review of Judicial Appointments be printed.

The Committee considered the wording of a motion to debate the Report and possible dates for the debate.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the wording of the Committee motion to debate the Report and that the Business Committee should be advised of a preference for 14 or 15 May 2012 for the debate.

The Chairman advised the Committee that the report will be embargoed until the start of the debate.

The Chairman thanked the Committee team for assisting the Committee during its Review and in the production of the Report.

13. Any other business

None.

14. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 3 May at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

5.03 p.m. the meeting moved into closed session.

15. Inquiry into the Criminal Justice Services available to Victims and Witnesses of Crime – Initial Consideration of Possible Recommendations

5.04 p.m. Ms McCann rejoined the meeting.

5.04 p.m. Mr McGlone rejoined the meeting.

The Committee considered the evidence received in relation to the Inquiry into the Criminal Justice Services available to Victims and Witnesses of Crime and discussed possible findings and recommendations.

5.19 p.m. Mr Maginness left the meeting.

5.21 p.m. Mr McCartney left the meeting.

5.29 p.m. Mr McGlone left the meeting.

5.30 p.m. Mr Anderson left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that a draft report outlining the key findings and recommendations that had been discussed should be prepared for further consideration.

6.09 p.m. the meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
3 May 2012

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