Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 09 June 2011

Venue: Room 30

The meeting commenced at 10.32 a.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 2 June 2011

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 2 June 2011 .

10.34 a.m. Mr Weir joined the meeting.

3. Matters Arising

i. The Committee considered a Criminal Justice Inspection report on Securing Attendance at Court.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the planned briefing by the Chief Inspector on the work of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate would provide an opportunity to raise any issues in relation to this report.

ii. The Committee noted an up-dated work programme covering the period up to summer recess.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a discussion on key priorities for the meeting on 30 June.

4. Overview Briefing on the Justice Policy Directorate and related NDPBs

Carol Moore, Director, Justice Policy, Gareth Johnston, Deputy Director, Justice Strategy Division, Maura Campbell, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Development Division and Brian Grzymek, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Services Division joined the meeting at 10.36 a.m.

10.39 a.m. Mr McCartney joined the meeting.

10.49 a.m. Mr McCrea joined the meeting.

The officials provided a briefing on the role and responsibilities and the key issues and challenges facing the Justice Policy Directorate and answered questions from Members.

Issues covered included the possibility of changes to the handling of petty theft cases in the Crown Court; the linkages that exist between the Department of Justice, the Home Office and other jurisdictions to learn from good practice; cooperation between divisions within the Directorate in the development of policy; the timescales for the introduction of proposed Justice legislation and completion of the Youth Justice Review; information on the results of the Victims and Witnesses Survey; compensation legislation relating to victims of sexual abuse; the introduction of new standards for reducing avoidable delay in the Justice System; lessons to be learned from the Tribunal system of handling cases; and what support is provided to witnesses.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

11.32 a.m. Mr Weir left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting further information on the Compensation Legislation relating to victims of sexual abuse and reform of it.

5. Overview Briefing on the NI Prison Service

Colin McConnell, Director General, NI Prison Service, Ronnie Armour, Director, Human Resources and Organisational Development, Graeme Wilkinson, Director, Finance, Planning and Corporate Compliance and Max Murray, Director, Offender Delivery and Regimes joined the meeting at 11.44 a.m.

The officials provided a briefing on the role and responsibilities and the key issues and challenges facing the Prison Service and answered questions from Members.

Mr Givan declared an interest as a family member is an employee of NI Prison Service .

Issues covered included the Prison Service Strategic Efficiency and Effectiveness (SEE) Review Programme; the current position with regard to recruitment in the Prison Service; the current situation regarding the staff exit package; the availability of external advisors to the Prison Service and the associated costs; the up-to-date position relating to the dispute in Roe House, Maghaberry Prison; the linkages between the SEE Review and the Prison Review; the ability to manage the proposed change programme and deliver on-going operational requirements; the arrangements in place for the early notification of critical incidents that arise within the prisons; how adequate the Risk Offender Management Strategy is; the rise in the prison population; any consideration being given to the privatization of specific functions.

12.22 p.m. Mr Lynch left the meeting.

Mr Dickson declared an interest as an employee of the Labour Relations Agency although he is currently on leave and due to retire in July. He would therefore not take part in any discussion on labour relations issues.

12.32 p.m. Mr Weir rejoined the meeting.

12.33 p.m. Mr Eastwood left the meeting.

12.34 p.m. Mr Anderson left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information on issues that had not been answered fully during the briefing.

During the evidence session the officials agreed to provide the Committee with further information on a number of issues.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

The meeting was suspended at 12.35 p.m.

The meeting resumed at 12.40 p.m. in public session.

Present: Mr Paul Givan MLA (Chairman)

Mr Raymond McCartney MLA (Deputy Chairman)

Mr Sydney Anderson MLA

Mr Stewart Dickson MLA

Mr Peter Weir MLA

In Attendance: Mrs Christine Darrah (Assembly Clerk)

Mrs Roisin Donnelly (Assistant Assembly Clerk)

Mr Vincent Gribbin (Assistant Assembly Clerk)

Mr Joe Westland (Clerical Supervisor)

Mr Kevin Marks (Clerical Officer)

6. Overview briefing on NI Courts and Tribunals Service

David Lavery, Director, NI Courts and Tribunals Service, Peter Luney, Deputy Head of Business Operations, Anthony Carleton, Head of Business Support and Geraldine Fee, Head of Criminal and Coroner’s Policy joined the meeting at 12.40 p.m.

The officials provided a briefing on the role and responsibilities and the key issues and challenges facing the NI Courts and Tribunals Service and answered questions from Members on issues including the current situation with regard to the implementation of the new rates for remuneration of defense representation in the Crown Court and the number of solicitors coming “off record”; the options available to provide defendants with legal representation; the resources available for the Public Prosecution Service; and who has responsibility for assessing the number of Judges required.

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 the Minister of Justice should attend a meeting to discuss the current position in relation to defence representation in Crown Court cases.

7. SL1 – The Legal Aid in Criminal Proceedings (Costs) (Amendment) Rules Northern Ireland) 2011 - Transfer Function of Appropriate Authority

The Committee considered a proposal for a Statutory Rule under powers conferred by Article 36 (3) of the Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, transferring responsibility for the determination of the costs payable under the Legal Aid in Criminal Proceedings (Costs) Rules (Northern Ireland) 1992 Rules from the appropriate authority to the Legal Services Commission.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposed Statutory Rule.

8. Court Rules Work Programme – April to June 2011

The Committee considered a schedule of Court Rules to be progressed before summer recess.

Agreed: Given that the proposed rules were making technical amendments/prescribing Court procedures, the Committee agreed that it was content to receive the Rules for consideration when submitted to the Department for allowance or consultation by the relevant Rules Committee.

9. Correspondence

i. The Committee considered correspondence from Mr Denvir regarding unresolved equal pay claims for PSNI support staff.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to inform Mr Denvir that an update on the matter had been requested from the Department of Justice.

ii. The Committee noted a statistical bulletin from the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service covering the period of January – March 2011 on Children’s Orders.

iii. The Committee noted an invitation from the Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland to the launch of her Annual Report for 2010/11. Copies of the report would be circulated in due course.

iv. The Committee considered correspondence fromthe Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding the review of Arm’s Length Bodies.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Justice seeking further information on the Review of Arm’s Length Bodies sponsored by the Department of Justice and requesting that it should examine how the roles and functions of these bodies may possibly be merged to produce greater efficiency and effectiveness.

v. The Committee noted the 2010 Annual Report of the Lay Observer for Northern Ireland.

vi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding his recent meeting with Alan Shatter TD to review North/South co-operation on a number of criminal justice issues and formally sign the Memorandum of Understanding to support forensic science cooperation.

vii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding minor amendments to the Explosives (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 (EHIPSR (NI) 2009).

10. Chairman’s Business

i. The Chairman advised Members that he had received a request from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Ms Patricia Lewsley, to discuss issues relating to youth justice and community safety and he intended to meet with the Commissioner in the near future.

ii. The Chairman advised Members that he had received an invitation to the official launch of the Youth Safety Network, to be held at Lisburn Civic Centre on 20 June 2011 and he hoped to attend the event.

iii. The Chairman informed Members that he had met with the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Probation Board at their request on 7 June 2011. During the meeting they had invited him to accompany a probation officer to view the community service aspects of their work. He hoped to accept the offer and would keep the committee advised.

iv. The Chairman advised Members that he had received requests from the Law Society and Bar Council for introductory meetings and arrangements would be made to take these forward.

11. Any Other Business

None.

12. Date and Time of next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 16 June 2011 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

1.08 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
16 June 2011

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