Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 04 July 2013

Venue: Room 30

The meeting commenced at 2.05 p.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are listed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 27 June 2013

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 27 June 2013.

3. Matters Arising

i. The Chairman advised the Committee that the Law Society for Northern Ireland had provided a copy of its response to the Department of Justice consultation on the Reform of Publicly Funded Legal Representation in the Civil and Family Courts and 2 indicated its willingness to answer any questions Members may have either orally or in writing.

ii. The Committee considered possible issues to be discussed when the Chief Constable attended on 19 September 2013.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the list of items to be covered during the meeting with the Chief Constable.

4. Reducing Avoidable Delay – Progress Report on the Multi-Agency Programme to Speed Up the Justice System

Ms Maura Campbell, Deputy Director, and Mr Chris Matthews and Ms Jean Moore, Criminal Justice Development Division, Department of Justice joined the meeting at 2.09 p.m.

2.18 p.m. Mr Patsy McGlone joined the meeting.

2.20 Mr Tom Elliott joined the meeting.

Ms Campbell outlined the current performance against the agreed standards for progressing cases through the criminal justice system and the work being taken forward to address avoidable delay and speed up the system.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including: the identification of the key blockages that are causing delay; the disappointing lack of progress to date despite a number of measures being implemented; how long it will take for the proposed legislative reforms, if implemented, to reduce avoidable delay in the criminal justice system; the performance indicators and how poor performance is tackled; the use of the Causeway system to identify specific problems; and, the need for the commentary on the Faster, Fairer Justice Bill to highlight why the legislative changes are required and what they need to achieve.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard

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

5. SL1:Publicly Funded Representation in the Civil and Family Courts – Briefing by the Bar Council

Ms Denise McBride, Vice Chairman of the Bar Council and Ms Siobhan Keegan, Chairman of the Family Bar Association joined the meeting at 2.26 p.m.

Mr Tom Elliott declared an interest as a member of the Northern Ireland Branch of Adoption UK.

2.29 p.m. Ms Rosaleen McCorley joined the meeting.

The representatives of the Bar Council outlined a number of key issues relating to the Department of Justice proposals to reform publicly funded representation in the Civil and Family Courts.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the reasons why barristers have been involved at all tiers of family proceedings in Northern Ireland which differs from other UK jurisdictions; whether the involvement of senior counsel in
cases can contribute to delays as suggested by Departmental officials; the extent of multiple senior representation in cases; whether solicitors have the capability and capacity to undertake the work; the distinct roles of the solicitor and the barrister; the need to prioritise a Review of Family Law which could deliver real change and render these proposals unnecessary; the definition and criteria to be applied in relation to exceptional cases and whether it was too restrictive; the gender breakdown of those who would be most affected by a reduction in representation and the impact this would have on female representation at the Bar and the justice system in general; how savings could be made without reducing representation; the number of family cases disposed of in the High Court and the level of senior counsel involvement; the reasons why the structured fees issue should be considered in advance of a reduction in representation; the anticipated savings from a reduction in representation and the potential increase in costs in other areas such as appeals, increased litigation and increased solicitors' costs; the extent to which access to justice would be impacted by a reduction in representation; whether a change in the proposed criteria for the use of senior counsel in the High Court would be useful; the impact of the increase in the jurisdiction in the County Courts to 30k for civil cases on the requirement for senior counsel; the different roles of junior and senior counsel; the likely impact a reduction in representation would have on vulnerable people; whether the societal and economic impact of the proposals had been assessed; and, the reasons for the increases in legal representation costs in civil and family cases in recent years.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard

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

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it wished to hear oral evidence from representatives of the Law Society in early September 2013 on the proposals.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that, following the evidence session with the Law Society, it wished to take further evidence from the Department of Justice officials on the proposals.

6. Faster, Fairer Justice Bill – Report of the Equality Consultation on the proposed Justice Bill (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Committee noted the Department of Justice report outlining the results of the public consultation on the equality aspects of the proposed Faster, Fairer Justice Bill.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the Department to publish the report.

7. Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill – Legislative Consent Motion

The Committee considered the Legislative Consent Memorandum (LCM) laid by the Minister of Justice on 28 June 2013 in respect of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and noted that a draft Committee report on the LCM would be available
for consideration at the meeting scheduled to take place on 12 September 2013.

8. SR 2013/149 The Attorney General's Human Rights Guidance (State Pathologist's Department) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Committee considered Statutory Rule 2013 No.149: The Attorney General's Human Rights Guidance (State Pathologist's Department) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 to bring into operation on 22 July 2013 guidance by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland for the State Pathologist's Department on the exercise of its functions in a manner consistent with international human rights standards.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice considered Statutory Rule 2013 No.149: The Attorney General's Human Rights Guidance (State Pathologist's Department) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and agreed that it was content with the Rule.

9. SR 2013/150 The Attorney General's Human Rights Guidance (Forensic Science Northern Ireland) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Committee considered Statutory Rule 2013 No.150: The Attorney General's Human Rights Guidance (Forensic Science Northern Ireland) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 to bring into operation on 22 July 2013 guidance by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland for Forensic Science Northern Ireland on the exercise of its functions in a manner consistent with international human rights standards.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice considered Statutory Rule 2013 No.150: The Attorney General's Human Rights Guidance (Forensic Science Northern Ireland) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and agreed that it was content with the
Rule.

10. Prison Reform Programme - Department of Justice Response to Issues Raised

The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to the issues raised by the Prison Officers' Association and the Independent Members of the Prison Review Oversight Group during recent oral evidence sessions on the Prison Reform Programme.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the response to the Independent Members of the Prison Oversight Group and to the Prison Officers' Association and invite any further comments in writing.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would raise the issues in the response with representatives of the Northern Ireland Prison Service at the next oral up-date on the delivery of the Prison Reform Programme.

11. Tribunal Reform – Summary of Responses to the Consultation on the Future Administration and Structure of Tribunals in Northern Ireland

The Committee considered the Department of Justice summary report on the responses received to the public consultation on the Future Administration and Structure of Tribunals in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the Department to publish the summary of responses to the consultation on Tribunal Reform and to consider the matter further when the proposals on the way forward are available.

12. Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland – Review of the Criteria for Appointment

The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Minister of Justice intends to review the current criteria to be applied when appointing the Chief Constable of the PSNI and inviting the views of the Committee on
the issues.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would consider the matter further at the meeting scheduled to take place on 12 September 2013.

13. Correspondence

i. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice enclosing a copy of its response to a Mr Stewart of the Limavady Human Rights Committee in relation to concerns raised around the perceived abuse of police powers of arrest.

ii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice enclosing a copy of a draft multi-lingual leaflet for victims of human trafficking which had been prepared in partnership with the Organised Crime Task Force and the Human Trafficking Engagement Group and which would be published in early September.

iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the publication of the Judicial Statistics 2012 report on criminal, civil and family business in the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

iv. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee's request that senior police management should communicate the implications of the recent court judgement on the equal pay claims for DoJ/NIO/PSNI support staff directly to staff and advise them of any future intentions in relation to equal pay claims.

v. The Committee noted the Forensic Science Northern Ireland 2013-14 Business Plan.6

vi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing information on AccessNI's performance during 2012-13 and the challenges to be met in terms of policy and operational changes over the next two year period.

vii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Finance and Personnel to the Committee's request for an estimate of the costs of hosting the G8 Summit including the estimated contribution required from the Department of Justice budget to cover the expenditure on policing and mutual aid arrangements and other justice related activities.

viii. The Committee noted a copy of a response from the Office of the Lord Chief Justice to a Mr Stewart of the Limavady Human Rights Committee in relation to concerns raised around the perceived abuse of process by the Judiciary.

ix. The Committee noted a response from the Chief Constable to the Committee's request for information regarding the approach taken in relation to the use of forensic and DNA evidence in a recent court case.

x. The Committee noted a response from the Northern Ireland Policing Board to the Committee's request for an up-date on the current position in relation to car crime and personal injury claims by PSNI Officers.

xi. The Committee noted a summary of progress on the delivery of Department of Justice capital projects detailed in the ISNI Delivery Tracking System.

xii. The Committee noted copies of letters from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister to Lord Boswell of the EU Select Committee in the House of Lords and Mr William Cash MP, Chairperson of the European Scrutiny Committee in relation to a European Commission proposal to promote the free movement of citizens and businesses by simplifying the acceptance of certain public documents (9037/13 - COM(2013)228).

xiii. The Committee noted further correspondence from a Mr Hammond in relation to equal pay claims for PSNI support staff.

xiv. The Committee noted an invitation from the Transitional Justice Institute to a seminar entitled 'Transitional Justice in the Middle East and North Africa: A Time of Conflict and Transformation' to be held in the University of Ulster Belfast
Campus on 5 July 2013.

xv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice in response to the Committee's request for information on non-jury trials.

xvi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising of the publication of the HMIC report 'Inspection of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Historical Enquiries Team'.

xvii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee's request for details of the G8 expenditure which would fall to the Department to fund and what impact this would have on other justice services.7

xviii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee's request for details of the costs associated with a recent court case and comments on the use of forensic and DNA evidence in such cases.

xix. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee's request for further information regarding the enactment of Section 104 of the Justice Act (NI) 2011.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider this matter further at the meeting scheduled for 26 September 2013 when representatives of the Ulster Clay Pigeon Shooting Association and the Northern Ireland Federation of Shooting Sports would attend to brief the Committee on issues relating to firearms legislation.

xx. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) Annual Report and Accounts for 2012/2013 would be laid in the Assembly on 11 July 2013.

xxi. The Committee noted the Department of Justice Corporate Plan 2012-15 and associated Business Plan 2013-14.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the plans in more detail when the detailed financial spend information it had requested was available.

xxii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for the Environment to the PSNI in relation to rural road safety and collision statistics.

xxiii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing an Assembly Research paper on financial forecasting by Northern Ireland departments including the Department of Justice.

xxiv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Independent Assessor for the
Public Prosecution Service providing a copy of his Interim Report for the quarter
commencing 1 April 2013.
xxv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Big Lottery Fund advising that a new £25m programme 'Reaching out: Supporting Families' was now open.

xxvi. The Committee noted a letter from Queen's University Belfast providing a discussion paper on 'Enhancing the Protection of Human Rights and Equality in Northern Ireland'.

xxvii. The Committee noted a copy of the Organised Crime Task Force 2013 Annual Report and Threat Assessment.

xxviii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice advising of changes the Home Secretary planned to make to the Extradition Act 2003, which is an excepted matter in Northern Ireland, to introduce a Forum Bar in extradition cases and noted that the Minister of Justice was of the view that to have a separate extradition process would cause confusion, delay, extra cost and 8 may lead to legal challenge and the provisions should be extended to cover Northern Ireland.

Some Members expressed concerns that the Minister of Justice had not attended the Committee to discuss the issues and placed their reservations regarding the matter on the record.

14. Chairman's Business

i. The Committee noted correspondence from the Assembly Director of Facilities indicating that the Parliament Buildings roof project would proceed in January 2014 and highlighting the implications for the Committee for Justice weekly meeting on a Thursday afternoon.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would consider the matter further in September 2013.

ii. The Committee considered arrangements for dealing with Freedom of Information requests during the summer recess period.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to delegate authority to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman to submit, during the recess period, views on the releasing or withholding of the information in any non-routine/contentious Freedom
of Information requests received.

15. Any Other Business

i. The publication of the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report on the Historical Enquiries Team was raised.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Minister of Justice should attend a meeting in September 2013 to outline his response to the findings of the report.

ii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel inviting the views of the Justice Committee on the justice related provisions in the Financial Provisions Bill.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to respond to the Committee for Finance and Personnel indicating that it was content with the provisions in the Financial Provisions Bill relating to the Department of Justice and providing a copy of the briefing paper which sets out the rationale for the provisions.

iii. The Committee noted that the Public Service Pensions Bill, which passed second stage on 25 June 2013, had implications for a wide range of public sector bodies including schemes that fell within the remit of the Department of Justice.9

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a written briefing from the Department of Justice and other relevant bodies on the implications of the provisions of the Bill for any pension schemes within their remit and what consultation had been carried out with stakeholders in relation to the Bill.

16. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 12 September 2013 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

The meeting was adjourned at 4.50 p.m.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
12 September 2013

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