Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Thursday, 27 October 2011
Venue: Room 30
The meeting commenced at 2.05 p.m. in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 20 October 2011
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 20 October 2011 .
3. Matters Arising
- The Chairman reminded Members that the Committee had agreed to join with the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister for lunch with members of the Commission established to consider the creation of a UK Bill of Rights on Wednesday 9 November 2011. An Assembly Research paper on the Justice Related issues in a UK Bill of Rights had been provided for information.
- The Committee noted information outlining that no appeal was lodged in a case brought to the attention of the Committee by the Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP in correspondence considered at the meeting on 27 September 2011.
- The Committee noted information regarding the arrangements for those Members who wished to attend the opening of the Learning and Skills Centre and Donard Centre at HM Prison Maghaberry on 3 November 2011.
- The Committee noted an up-dated Forward Work Programme for the period November to December 2011.
4. Briefing on the findings of the final report by the Prison Review Team
Dame Anne Owers, Head of the Prison Review Team, and Phil Wheatley and Clodach McGrory, Review Team Members joined the meeting at 2.08 p.m.
2.11 p.m. Mr Wells joined the meeting.
The Review Team outlined the findings and recommendations of the final report.
2.25 p.m. Mr McCrea joined the meeting.
Mr Givan declared an interest as a family member is an employee of the NI Prison Service.
A question and answer session followed covering issues including how a statutory time limit for remands could work in practice and the likely implications; the available technology for full body searches; the role of the Probation Board outlined in the report and what account was taken of the proposed reductions in its budget; the timescale for the nature of and the likely effect on officers of the Exit Scheme; the need for an implementation plan and a dedicated Change Management Team for the proposed reforms; the required progress over the next six months from the Review Team’s perspective; what monitoring arrangements should be put in place; the Inspire project and proposals for a new women’s facility; the lack of progress in relation to a training and development programme for existing and new staff; the need to investigate the discrepancies highlighted in Prison Service statistics; and the proposed Health care reforms.
The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked the Review Team for the briefing and they left the meeting.
The Committee noted that the Minister of Justice would attend the Committee meeting on 17 November 2011 to discuss the Review and the way forward.
5. Briefing on the draft Northern Ireland Organised Crime Strategy
Simon Rogers, Head of Policing and Organised Crime Division, Department of Justice, Detective Superintendent Philip Marshall, Organised Crime Branch, PSNI, Bob Lauder, Deputy Director, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Serious and Organised Crime Agency and John Whiting, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs joined the meeting at 3.36 p.m.
The officials briefed the Committee on the draft Northern Ireland Organised Crime Strategy.
A question and answer session followed covering issues such as the lack of custodial sentences for those convicted of fuel smuggling and fuel laundering and the reasons for this; the work being undertaken to make laundering fuel more difficult; the problem and extent of electronic fraud and internet scams; the role of the Policing Board in relation to the Organised Crime Task Force; the extent of the cost of tobacco smuggling to the Treasury; the extent of Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland; the Task Force’s cross border cooperation with the Republic of Ireland; and any need for additional legislation to tackle particular crimes.
The Chairman thanked the officials for the briefing and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information on a number of issues raised during the briefing.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Northern Ireland Policing Board regarding its role in relation to the Organised Crime Task Force.
6. Consideration of the oral evidence given by the Police Ombudsman at the Committee meeting on 8 September 2011
The Committee considered a draft letter to the Police Ombudsman regarding the oral evidence he had given at the meeting on 8 September 2011 in relation to the Criminal Justice Inspectorate report into the independence of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that the letter should issue to the Police Ombudsman.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that the relevant paragraphs of the Hansard of the Police Ombudsman’s evidence and the transcript of the spotlight programme should be highlighted and the Hansard of the evidence session with the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice, Dr Michael Maguire, should also be attached.
7. Consideration of the responses to the Sex Offender Notification and Violent Offender Orders Consultation
The Committee considered information provided by the Department of Justice on the results of the consultation on proposals designed to meet a Supreme Court ruling and further strengthen the effectiveness of the sex offender notification requirements and make provision for Violent Offender Orders.
Agreed : The Committee agreed to request further information on the current position in England and Wales in relation to amending the sex offender notification requirements for the meeting on 17 November 2011 when the Department would present final policy proposals for consideration.
8. SL1 - Reform of Legal Representation at the Crown Court – Assignment of Two Counsel
The Committee considered the wording of the provision in the proposed Statutory Rule to reform legal representation at the Crown Court designed to protect a defendant’s human rights through the assignment of a second counsel in a Crown Court case.
The Chairman informed the Committee that, during a meeting with the Attorney General for Northern Ireland he and the Deputy Chairman had had on a separate issue, the Attorney General had raised a number of concerns regarding this proposed Statutory Rule and had outlined a number of other options.
5.07 p.m. Mr Anderson left the meeting.
Mr Maginness declared an interest as a Member of the Northern Ireland Bar.
Mr Weir declared an interest as a non-practising Member of the Northern Ireland Bar.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Attorney General should attend the next meeting to discuss the proposed Statutory Rule.
Agreed: The Committee would give consideration to a wider examination of how money is distributed across the legal sector in due course.
9. SL1 – The Valuation Tribunal (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011 – High Hedges Tribunal
The Committee considered a response from the Committee for the Environment outlining its views on the proposals for a Statutory Rule to amend 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.
Mr Weir declared an interest as a member of the Committee for the Environment.
Agreed : The Committee agreed to support the request from the Committee for the Environment to incorporate a time limit on the appeal process into the proposed Statutory Rule and to write to the Department of Justice accordingly.
10. The Executive’s Review of the Financial Process in Northern Ireland.
The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the Executive’s Review of the Financial Process in Northern Ireland.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider a draft response on the matter at a future meeting.
11. Draft NI Consultation on POCA 2002 – Codes of Practice to regulate recovery of cash search and seizures powers etc.
The Committee noted a draft consultation document and two draft Codes of Practice in relation to commencing parts of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 which will amend the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA).
5.36 p.m. Mr McCartney left the meeting.
12. Second Commencement Order of Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 and Commencement Order for Supervised Activity Order from the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008
The Committee noted two Commencement Orders in respect of the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 and the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 which the Minister of Justice had recently signed.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information on the Supervised Activity Order pilot planned for the start of January 2012 in the Craigavon Petty Sessions District including when the pilot would be assessed and what consideration had been given to rolling out a wider pilot programme.
- The Committee noted a Green Paper on Justice and Security published by the UK Government.
- The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to a request from the Committee for the Environment for information on reducing departmental energy use.
Agreed : The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Committee for the Environment.
- The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to its request for clarification regarding proposed new Magistrates’ Courts Rules to prescribe procedure for applications relating to DNA.
- The Committee noted a letter from the Committee for Employment and Learning to the Lord Chief Justice expressing its concerns regarding the impact of on-going legal action on the procurement process for the Department of Employment and Learning’s Training for Success programme.
- The Committee noted correspondence from the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission regarding the appointment of Mr Odhrán Stockman to the Office of Social Security Commissioner and Child Support Commissioner for Northern Ireland.
- The Committee considered a response from the Public Prosecution Service to its request for a copy of the criteria to be used for applicants for the PPS panel list of Counsel.
Agreed : The Committee agreed to write to the Public Prosecution Service requesting the new criteria when available and further information on how junior members of the Bar can undertake work on behalf of the PPS.
- The Committee noted the Youth Justice Agency’s Business Plan 2011-2012.
5.42 p.m. Mr Weir left the meeting.
- The Committee considered correspondence from the Post 19 Lobby Group requesting an opportunity to meet the Committee to provide information on the issues faced by young people with severe learning disabilities and their families across Northern Ireland.
Agreed : The Committee agreed to refer the request to other Statutory Committees for action as no specific justice issues had been highlighted and to indicate that, if any justice issues arose, it would be content to consider them.
- The Committee noted a response from the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland to its request for his views on whether the action plan developed to address the recommendations of the CJI Report on Use of Legal Services was likely to deliver the sustained improvement required.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting that further consideration be given to the action plan and for it to be revised to address the concerns outlined by the Chief Inspector.
- The Committee noted correspondence from NIACRO regarding the Report of the Prison Review Team.
- The Committee noted information provided by the Department of Justice regarding additional costs associated with the separated regime in HM Prison Maghaberry.
- The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing the main items for discussion on the agenda for the next Quarterly Police Negotiating Board meeting.
- The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for the Environment regarding the liaison between the PSNI and the Fire Service in relation to hoax calls.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice for a response.
14. Chairman’s Business
- The Chairman advised Members that he and the Deputy Chairman had met earlier with the Attorney General to discuss his work in relation to the production of guidance for criminal justice organisations on the exercise of their functions in a manner consistent with international human rights standards relevant to the Criminal Justice System.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that arrangements should be made for the Chief Constable to attend a Committee meeting to discuss human rights and the PSNI and other issues including procurement practices.
- The Chairman advised Members that the programme for the Victim Support/NSPCC joint seminar: Victims’ Voices: Experiences of children and adults of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland, which was relevant to the Committee Inquiry, had been circulated for information.
15. Any other Business
16. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Thursday 10 November 2011 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.
5.50 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
10 November 2011