Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Thursday, 17 November 2011
Venue: Room 30
The meeting commenced at 2.16 p.m. in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 10 November 2011
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 10 November 2011 .
3. Matters Arising
i. The Committee noted a revised programme for the visit to Forensic Science Northern Ireland on Thursday 24 November 2011.
ii. The Committee noted information on the current position in relation to the Committee’s Inquiry into Victims and Witnesses of Crime.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to hold external Inquiry evidence events in Derry/Londonderry and Lisburn in December 2011 and January 2012.
4. Briefing by the Minister of Justice on the Department of Justice response to the Prison Review Team’s Final Report
The Minister of Justice, David Ford MLA and Colin McConnell, Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service joined the meeting at 2.20 p.m.
The Committee noted information provided by the NI Prison Service in reponse to a request during the briefing on the Prison Service Exit Scheme at last week’s meeting for the number of eligible Prison Service staff with 40 years reckonable service.
Mr Givan declared an interest as a family member is an employee of the NI Prison Service.
The Minister of Justice clarified his position regarding how any decisions on the emblems and title of Northern Ireland Prisons would be handled and provided information on the current position with regard to the Prison Service Roll of Honour on the internet page.
The Minister and the Director General briefed the Committee on the Department of Justice response to the Prison Review Team’s Final Report.
2.42 p.m. Mr McCrea left the meeting.
A question and answer session followed covering issues including the role of other departments and organisations in delivering on the Prison Service reform programme; the current position on moving under 18s from Hydebank Wood to Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre and what flexibility there would be with regard to holding under 18s in the Young Offenders Centre if necessary; the possible implications if Statutory time limits were to be introduced; the need for information on whether the Department of Justice or Northern Ireland Prison Service would take the lead on particular recommendations, which would be consulted on and which would require legislation; the current position in relation to the development of a detailed implementation plan with timelines; progress in recruiting a dedicated Change Management Team to oversee the proposed reforms; and the reasons for the delays; the current position regarding expressions of interest in the exit schemes and the categories of staff who could apply; the role and membership of the proposed Oversight Committee; what monitoring arrangements could be put in place; action being taken to analyse the discrepancies highlighted by Prison Service statistics; the likely impact on the Prison Service of the loss of experienced staff over a relative timescale; and the training and development programme for new and remaining staff; and the proposed pilot scheme on Supervision Orders for fine defaulters in Craigavon.
3.10 p.m. Mr Weir left the meeting.
3.17 p.m. Mr Eastwood left the meeting.
3.32 p.m. Mr Maginness left the meeting.
The Minister of Justice agreed to provide further information on a range of issues raised during the briefing session.
The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked the Minister and Mr McConnell for the briefing and they left the meeting.
5. Briefing on the final policy proposals on Sex Offender Notification Requirements
Gareth Johnston, Deputy Director of Criminal Justice Policy and Legislation, Department of Justice and Amanda Patterson, Head of Public Protection Unit, Department of Justice joined the meeting at 3.47 p.m.
3.47 p.m. Ms McCann left the meeting.
3.57 p.m. Mr Weir rejoined the meeting.
The officials briefed the Committee on the final policy proposals on Sex Offender Notification requirements.
A question and answer session followed covering issues such as how the proposals compare with those in other jurisdictions; why a submission from a victim of the offence was not included as part of the review proposals; why the proposals did not produce a statutory duty on agencies to provide relevant information; the rationale for both the Police review and the Court process to consider the same criteria and the need for both stages; the cost involved in Reviews going to Court; and the legal advice obtained by the Department on Article 6.
4.07 p.m. Mr Maginness rejoined the meeting.
The officials undertook to consider the Committee’s request for sight of the legal advice provided to the Department.
The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked Ms Patterson for the briefing and she left the meeting.
Agreed : The Committee agreed to request legal advice on a range of issues to assist consideration of the legislation in due course.
6. Briefing on a draft consultation document the on Governance and Accountability of the Public Prosecution Service
David Lennox, Criminal Justice Policy and Legislation Division, Department of Justice joined Gareth Johnston at 4.14 p.m.
The officials briefed the Committee on a draft consultation document on possible models for the governance and accountability of the Public Prosecution Service.
A question and answer session followed covering issues relating to the current accountability arrangements relating to the Public Prosecution Service; the current statutory relationship between the PPS and the Attorney General; the timescale for the consultation; and were the appeal function of a lenient sentence should sit.
The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked the officials for the briefing and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Assembly and Executive Review Committee and the Committee on Procedures advising them of the proposed consultation.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation document to be published and to consider the issue further when the results of the consultation were available.
4.36 p.m. Mr Maginness left the meeting.
7. Draft consultation on proposals for Court of Judicature Rules to limit costs for Environmental Judicial Review Applications
The Committee considered a draft consultation paper on proposals for Court of Judicature Rules to limit costs for Environmental Judicial Review Applications.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation to take place.
8. Draft consultation on proposals for the Reform of Committal Proceedings
The Committee considered a draft consultation paper on proposals to reform committal proceedings.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation exercise to take place and to consider the issue further when the results of the consultation were available.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to commission a research paper on how committal proceedings operate in other similar jurisdictions.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that arrangements should be made for an informal briefing on the process of a court case and the various stages of a criminal trial.
9. Policy paper on a proposed consultation on improving the use of Victim Impact Statements and Reports
The Committee considered a policy paper from the Department of Justice outlining proposals to consult formalising the practise in relation to victim impact statements and reports with a view to encouraging greater uptake among those victims who may benefit most from them.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposals for the consultation.
10. SL1 – PSNI and PSNI Reserve (Full Time) (Severance) (Amendment) Regulations 2011
The Committee considered proposals for a Statutory Rule in relation to two PSNI and PSNI Full Time Reserve early retirement severance schemes.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposal for the Statutory Rule.
11. Consultation on the draft Police Service of Northern Ireland Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 2012
The Committee noted the intention of the Department of Justice to consult on draft Police Service of Northern Ireland Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
12. Northern Ireland Law Commission Draft Work Programme 2011 – 15
The Committee considered further information on the NI Law Commission’s proposed second work programme covering the period 2011 – 2015.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposed programme.
13. The Executive’s Review of the Financial Process in Northern Ireland
The Committee considered a draft response to the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the Executive’s Review of the Financial Process.
Agreed: The Committee agreed the draft response.
i. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding the early release of a fine defaulter from HM Prison Maghaberry due to an administrative error by a court office.
ii. The Committee considered a letter from Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA enclosing correspondence from a constituent regarding ownership of centre-fire self- loading rifles for target shooting purposes.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting information on any plans it had to review firearms legislation in general and this issue specifically.
iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Bar Council regarding the Assignment of Two Counsel – Criminal Aid Certificate Rules.
iv. The Committee noted information on the publication of Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service quarterly statistical bulletins.
v. The Committee noted a response from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding its request for an update on the timescales for the publication of the draft Programme for Government.
Agreed: A briefing on the draft Programme for Government would be scheduled at the earliest opportunity.
iv The Committee noted an invitation from NIACRO to the first event of the Justice Series 2011-12 on Mental Health and Justice on Tuesday 22 November 2011.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that any Members wishing to attend should advise should advise the Committee Clerk who would make the necessary arrangements.
vii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing information on the current position in relation to the on-going monitoring of Post Project Evaluations.
15. Chairman’s Business
The Chairman advised Members that as the Committee was undertaking visits to Forensic Science and Victim Support on 24 November and 1 December a Committee meeting would take place on Monday 28 November 2011 at 12.00 noon to 1.30 p.m.
16. Any other business
17. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Monday 28 November 2011 at 12.00 noon in Room 29, Parliament Buildings.
4.47 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
28 November 2011