Criminal Justice Bill - Further Information

The Criminal Justice Bill was formally introduced to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 25 June 2012 and received its Second Reading on 3 July 2012. The Bill has now been referred to the Committee for Justice which has responsibility for the Committee Stage of the Bill.

The Criminal Justice Bill has 10 clauses and 4 schedules.

Clauses 1 to 4 and Schedule 1 make changes to Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”). The principle aim of these clauses is to increase public safety whilst complying with the human rights of offenders subject to notification requirements for sexual offences. The clauses and Schedule provide for a mechanism to review indefinite notification requirements, end notification requirements for acts which are no longer criminal offences, ensure relevant sexual offenders coming to Northern Ireland with convictions from EEA countries outside of the United Kingdom are subject to the notification requirements and increase the scope of sexual offences prevention orders to require offenders to take positive actions as well as place restrictions on their behaviour.

Clauses 5 and 6 create new human trafficking offences. Clause 5 amends the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to create an offence in Northern Ireland of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation which takes place wholly outside the UK and Clause 6 amends the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 to allow prosecution for trafficking someone for exploitation anywhere outside the UK. The creation of these offences will ensure that the legislative framework to tackle human trafficking in Northern Ireland complies with the requirements of the EU Directive.

Clause 7 and Schedules 2 and 3 insert into PACENI the new retention framework for fingerprints and samples, etc. and make consequential amendments. The key proposals are as follows:

Non-convicted persons

Immediate destruction of fingerprints and DNA profile from persons—

  • arrested for or charged with, but not convicted of, a minor offence; or
  • arrested for, but not charged with, a serious offence (unless prescribed circumstances apply).

Retention of fingerprints and DNA profile from persons—

  • arrested for, but not charged with, a serious offence (if prescribed circumstances apply); or
  • charged with, but not convicted of, a serious offence,

for a period of three years, with an extension of two years available on application to the courts.

Convicted adults

Indefinite retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles for all adults convicted of a recordable offence.

Convicted under-18s

On first conviction for a minor offence, retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles for—

  • five years, if the sentence is non-custodial; or
  • five years plus length of sentence (if given a custodial sentence of less than five years).

Indefinite retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles—

  • where a custodial sentence of five years or more is imposed;
  • on conviction for a serious offence; or
  • on a second conviction.

DNA samples

Destruction of all DNA samples taken from persons on arrest, whether the individual goes on to be convicted or not. Samples to be retained for only as long as necessary to create a DNA profile and, in any event, for no longer than six months, with an exception for temporary retention where the sample is likely to be needed in proceedings.

Statutory grounds for early deletion

Statutory requirement for Chief Constable to destroy fingerprints and DNA in cases where the taking of the samples was unlawful or the arrest of the person was unlawful or based on mistaken identity, with an exception for temporary retention where the material has evidential value, subject to its admittance by a court.


Relevant databases to be searched for a match against all fingerprints and DNA before destruction.

Biometric Commissioner

Cases involving prescribed circumstances to require independent approval.

Clause 8 and Schedule 4 make repeals.

Clause 9 provides for the commencement of the Bill’s provisions.

Clause 10 is the Short Title.

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