Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 10 November 2011

Venue: Room 30

The meeting commenced at 2.04 p.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 27 October 2011

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 27 October 2011 .

3. Matters Arising

  1. The Committee considered a draft programme for the visit to Forensic Science Northern Ireland on 24 November 2011.
    Agreed: The Committee agreed the proposed programme for the visit.
  2. The Committee noted an acknowledgement letter from the Office of the Police Ombudsman regarding the letter issued in relation to the Ombudsman’s oral evidence to the Committee on 8 September 2011.

4. Briefing by the Attorney General on a proposed Statutory Rule on the Reform of Legal Representation at the Crown Court

The Attorney General for Northern Ireland, Philip Gilpin, Solicitor to the Attorney General for Northern Ireland and Maura McCallion, Division Head, Office of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland joined the meeting at 2.07 p.m.

2.07 p.m. Mr McCartney joined the meeting.

The Chairman advised the Committee that the Minister of Justice had written indicating that he had decided not to proceed with the Statutory Rule in its present form following recent discussions that he had had with the Attorney General but that he intended to consider the representations made and return to the Committee on the matter in due course.

The Attorney General discussed the proposals for a Statutory Rule to amend the circumstances where the court can assign two counsel to a defendant in a Crown Court case.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including the gap that appeared to have developed between the formal legal test in the 1966 rules and a culture of granting certificates for two counsel; the possible impact of the proposed new Statutory Rule on increasing delay in the criminal justice system; how better accountability could be achieved by the introduction of a requirement to provide reasons for the granting of two counsel; and other issues relating to the proposed Statutory Rule.

2.35 p.m. Mr Eastwood left the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked the Attorney General and his officials for the briefing and they left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Justice seeking information on how he intends to address the issues highlighted with regard to the operation of the current Rule and the need to introduce a requirement to give reasons for the granting of two counsel.

2.45 p.m. Mr McCrea left the meeting.

5. Briefing by departmental officials on the Committee Inquiry into Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

Maura Campbell, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Development, and Brendan O’Mahony and Maurice Campbell, Criminal Justice Development joined the meeting at 2.45 p.m.

2.47 p.m. Mr Eastwood rejoined the meeting.

The officials briefed the Committee on the work that had been undertaken in relation to the development of a new Strategy for Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

A question and answer session followed covering issues such as the support/counselling available to victims and witnesses who have given evidence in court and who have faced hostile examination; the findings of the victim and witness survey; how communication with victims and witnesses could be improved particularly in relation to the outcome of cases; what information is currently provided to victims; whether the strategy would include actions to deal with unreported crime; how the community impact of a particular crime could be highlighted; and the impact of delay in the system on victims and witnesses.

3.03 p.m. Mr Eastwood left the meeting.
3.03 p.m. Mr Lynch left the meeting.
3.13 p.m. Mr Weir joined the meeting.

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 request a response to a number of further questions from the Department.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a written up-date on progress in relation to each of the actions in the 2011-12 Victim and Witness Annual Action Plan.

6. Briefing on the Prison Service Exit Scheme and new Target Operating Model

Ronnie Armour, Director of Human Resources and Organisation Development, Graeme Wilkinson, Director of Finance and Corporate Services, John Toal, Head of Organisational Development Branch and Michael Cowan, Organisational Development Branch, Northern Ireland Prison Service joined the meeting at 3.14 p.m.

3.18 p.m. Mr Lynch rejoined the meeting.

The officials outlined the Prison Service Exit Scheme and new target operating model launched on 8 November 2011.

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 such as the new management structure for the Prison Service; the number of posts that would be redundant at each grade under the new target operating model; the timetable for the exit scheme; details of the likely payments under the Exit Scheme including the impact of tax and national insurance liabilities; the likely take-up by staff; how the recruitment of custody officers would be conducted; the likely impact on the prison service of the losing of experienced staff over a relatively short timescale; and how the Exit Package fitted into the overall Prison Reform Programme.

4.15 p.m. Mr Anderson left the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The officials agreed to provide further information on the number of staff over 50 and the likely projections.

The Chairman thanked the officials for the briefing and they left the meeting.

7. Briefing on the development of new Long-Term Policing Objectives

David Hughes, Deputy Director, Policing Policy and Strategy Division and Tim Logan, Head of Strategy and Support Branch, Policing Policy and Strategy Division joined the meeting at 4.20 p.m.

4.23 p.m. Mr Anderson rejoined the meeting.

The officials up-dated the Committee on the development of new long-term policing objectives.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including how the PSNI was accountable to the Policing Board and the Committee for Justice; how the objectives reflected community policing and the security threat; how the objectives reflected public confidence; how the objectives reflected the legacy of the past; the role of the Policing Board; in relation to the long-term policing objectives; and what previous long-term objectives had been in place prior to the devolution of policing and justice.

Mr Weir declared an interest as a former Member of the Policing Board.

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 wished to be informed of the views of the Policing Board on the long term policing objectives.

8. Speeding up Justice – Draft Consultation on Proposals to Encourage Early Guilty Pleas

The Committee considered a draft consultation document from the Department of Justice on potential approaches to encourage earlier guilty pleas as part of the programme to speed up justice.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation document to be published and to consider the proposals when the results of the consultation were available.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request that the Department of Justice ensured that Human Rights organisations were included on the list of consultees.

9. Draft consultation on proposals to close Bangor, Larne, Limavady, Magherafelt and Strabane Courthouses

The Committee considered a draft consultation document from the Department of Justice on proposals to close five Hearing Centres at Bangor, Larne, Limavady, Magherafelt and Strabane Courthouses.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation document to be published.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information on a number of issues relating to the proposals.

  • 10. Department of Justice Reform Programme – Update on Revised Structure for the Department

The Committee considered information on the new structure of the Department of justice which has been introduced as part of its Reform Programme.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request an oral briefing on the matter.

11. Results of a UK-wide consultation on Carriage of Dangerous Goods: Approved Derogations and Transitional Provisions

The Committee noted the results of a UK Wide consultation on the Carriage of Dangerous Goods: Approved Derogations and Transitional Provisions.

12. Correspondence

  1. The Committee noted responses from the Bar Council and the Law Society of Northern Ireland regarding the intention of the Minister of Justice to undertake a formal review of the changes to the Legal Aid for Crown Court Proceedings after two years rather than the earlier review that had been originally considered.
  2. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to its request for further information on European Union legislation proposals and accessing funding streams.
  3. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing information on the performance of NI Departments with regard to the achievement of targets for the prompt payment of invoices.
    Agreed: The Committee agreed to request information on the performance of the Department of Justice in relation to the prompt payment of invoices.
  4. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure regarding the 2013 World Police and Fire Games to be held in Belfast.
    Agreed: The Committee agreed that a briefing by a delegation from the World Police and Fire Games should be scheduled into the work programme.
  5. The Committee noted the response provided by the Department of Justice to the Assembly and Executive Review Committee on the Review of the Initial Ministerial provision in relation to the Department of Justice and recommendations relating to the arrangements from 1 May 2012.
  6. The Committee noted correspondence from a Mr Hammond regarding delays in NICS pay awards to PSNI civilian staff.
  7. The Committee noted information provided by the Department of Justice on the findings of the investigation report into the handling breach in relation to the Part-Time Reserve Gratuity Scheme.
  8. The Committee noted the Northern Ireland Prison Service Corporate Plan 2011-2015 and Business Plan 2011-2012.
  9. The Committee considered a Criminal Justice Inspectorate report of an announced inspection on Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre.
    Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a written response from the Department/Juvenile Justice Agency on the actions to be taken in response to the recommendations in the CJI report.
  10. The Committee noted an invitation from the Bar Council to Members to attend their Annual Conference entitled “Serving Justice with Excellence” on Friday 18 November.
    Agreed: The Committee agreed that any Members wishing to attend should advise the Committee Clerk who would make the necessary arrangements.
  11. The Committee considered a Criminal Justice Inspection report of a follow-up review of Enforcement in the Department of the Environment.
    Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the report to the Committee for the Environment for information.

13. Chairman’s Business

  1. The Chairman informed the Committee that a number of Members attended a lunch yesterday in conjunction with the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister with the Members of the UK Commission investigating the creation of a UK Bill of Rights and had a useful discussion.
  2. The Chairman reminded Members of an invitation to the Victim Support/NSPCC seminar on Victims Voices: Experiences of Children and Adults of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland on Tuesday 15 November 2011.
  3. The Chairman advised the Committee of a request from Lord Shutt, Liberal Democrat Spokesman for Northern Ireland in the House of Lords, to meet during his visit on Thursday 17 November 2011.
    Agreed: The Committee agreed that those Members who were available would meet with Lord Shutt from 12.30pm to 1.45pm on 17 November 2011.
    Agreed: The Committee agreed that any Members wishing to attend should advise the Committee Clerk who would make the necessary arrangements.

14. Any other Business

None.

15. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 17 November 2011 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

5.13 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
17 November 2011

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