Details of the Call for Evidence on the Justice Bill and the Proposed Amendments

The Justice Bill

The Committee for Justice would welcome your views/comments on the contents of the Justice Bill.

The purpose of the Justice Bill is to provide for a single jurisdiction for county courts and magistrates’ courts; to amend the law on committal for trial; to provide for prosecutorial fines; to make provision in relation victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings and investigations; to amend the law on criminal records and live links; to provide for violent offences prevention orders; to make other amendments relating to the administration of civil and criminal justice; and for connected purposes.

A copy of the Justice Bill and Explanatory Memorandum can be found here.

The Committee has also received information on a number of proposed amendments to the Justice Bill and would welcome views/comments on these, further details of which are outlined below.

Proposed Amendments to the Justice Bill from the Department of Justice

The Department of Justice has informed the Committee of six amendments that it plans to bring forward for consideration during the Committee Stage of the Bill. The proposed amendments cover the following:
Part 4 – Victims and Witnesses - Sharing Victim and Witness Information
Part 5 – Criminal Records – Publication of the Code of Practice
Part 5 – Criminal Records – Exchange of information between AccessNI and Disclosure and Barring Service for barring purposes
Part 5 – Criminal Records – Review of criminal record certificates where convictions or disposals have not been filtered
Part 8 – Miscellaneous – Duty of solicitor to advise client about early guilty plea
Part 8 – Miscellaneous – Defence Access to Premises

Details of the Department’s proposed six amendments to the Bill can be found here.

Proposed Amendment from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland

The Committee also intends to give further consideration in the context of this Bill to a proposal from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland for a potential amendment to the Coroners Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 which it first considered during the Committee Stage of the Legal Aid and Coroners’ Courts Bill. 

The Attorney General has the power under section 14(1) of the Coroners Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 to direct an inquest where he considers it ‘advisable’ to do so but has no powers to obtain papers or information that may be relevant to the exercise of that power. He has experienced some difficulty in recent years in securing access to documents that he has needed and the proposed amendment to the 1959 Act would confer a power on the Attorney General to obtain papers and provide a clear statutory basis for disclosure. He has indicated that the principle focus of his concern is deaths that occur in hospital or where there is otherwise a suggestion that medical error may have occurred.

Further details including the wording of the proposed amendment can be found here.

Proposed Amendment from Mr Jim Wells MLA

At the meeting of the Committee on 2 July 2014 Mr Jim Wells MLA advised Members that he intends to bring forward an amendment to the Bill to restrict lawful abortions to National Health Services premises, except in cases of urgency when access to National Health Service premises is not possible and where no fee is paid. The amendment also provides an additional option to the existing legislation for a period of up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine on conviction on indictment. 

The wording of the proposed amendment can be found here.

Written evidence should be submitted in Word format and preferably by email to justice.bill@niassembly.gov.uk, or, by post, to The Committee Clerk, Room 242, Parliament Buildings, Ballymiscaw, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX.

Your written submission should be structured to address specific clauses and schedules of the Bill or the proposed amendments and, if appropriate, should include any amendments you wish to propose to the text.

The closing date for written submissions is Friday 12 September 2014.

If you have any queries or require any further information please contact the Committee Office on 028 9052 1913 or 028 9052 1629.  

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