Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 04 October 2012

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 2.01 p.m. in public session.

The Chairman welcomed Mr Alex Easton as a new Member of the Committee for Justice and advised that Mr William Humphrey who had also joined the Committee had registered his apologies for today’s meeting.  The Chairman advised that a copy of Mr Easton’s and Mr Humphrey’s entry in the Register of Members’ Interests had been tabled for information.

Mr Easton advised the Committee of a change to his entry in the Register of Members’ Interests in that he was no longer a member of North Down District Policing Partnership.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 27 September 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 27 September 2012.

3. Matters Arising

The Committee noted a supplementary research briefing paper on issues relating to human trafficking.

4. Criminal Justice Bill: Oral evidence on the Clause and Schedules relating to the Retention of DNA/Fingerprints   

Evidence Session with the Children’s Law Centre

Paddy Kelly, Director and John Patrick Clayton, Assistant Policy Officer, Children’s Law Centre joined the meeting at 2.04 p.m.

2.04 p.m. Patsy McGlone joined the meeting.

Ms Kelly and Mr Clayton outlined the key issues in the Children’s Law Centre’s submission on the clause and schedules of the Criminal Justice Bill relating to the Retention of DNA/Fingerprints.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: whether cautions should be included as a recordable offence for the purposes of this legislation; the minimum age of criminal responsibility; examples of the outworkings of the proposed legislation in relation to the retention of children and young people’s fingerprints and DNA material; the evidence that suggested retention would be detrimental to children; whether the provisions of the Bill adequately address the European Court of Human Rights S & Marper judgement; lack of clarity regarding ‘prescribed circumstances’; the disconnect between this legislation and the diversionary approach being implemented by other parts of the Criminal Justice System; the definition of recordable offences; whether the provisions in the Bill are proportionate, whether the provisions undermine the ‘presumption of innocence’; and whether the Bill should contain specific provisions relating to children and young people who had committed minor offences.

2.31 p.m. Jim Wells joined the meeting.

The Chairman thanked Ms Kelly and Mr Clayton for the briefing and they left the meeting.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

Evidence Session with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Chief Commissioner Michael O’Flaherty and Colin Caughey, Policy Worker, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission joined the meeting at 2.51 p.m.

Mr O’Flaherty and Mr Caughey, outlined the key issues in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s submission on the clause and schedules of the Criminal Justice Bill relating to the Retention of DNA/Fingerprints in relation to adults.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the circumstances in which the indefinite retention of material is appropriate; the need for an opportunity to challenge and appeal retention; whether retention of material from all convicted persons is proportionate given the wide range of offences to which it can be applied; the need for the ‘prescribed circumstances’ to be set out on the face of the Bill and for them to comply with human rights standards; evidence recently given by the UK Government to the Council of Ministers; whether the provisions in the  Bill adequately address international human rights standards and whether the provisions as they are currently drafted would be vulnerable to future legal challenge.

The Chief Commissioner agreed to provide the Committee with a copy of the evidence to the Council of Ministers.

The Chairman thanked Mr O’Flaherty and Mr Caughey for the briefing and they left the meeting.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

Evidence session with the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley and Colette McIlvanna, Senior Legal and Casework Officer of NICCY joined the meeting at 3.21 p.m.

Ms Lewsley and Ms McIlvanna outlined the key issues in NICCY’s submission on the clause and schedules of the Criminal Justice Bill relating to the Retention of DNA/Fingerprints.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the minimum age of criminal responsibility; the capacity of children as young as ten to consent to provide fingerprints and DNA samples; concerns that few of the issues raised by the Commissioner in response to the Department’s consultation had been addressed; whether the use of cautions in the legislation was appropriate; the Commissioner’s view on the retention of material from non-convicted children; and the circumstances in which retention is appropriate.

The Chairman thanked Ms Lewsley and Ms McIlvanna for the briefing.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

Agreed:     The Committee agreed to refer the issues raised in both the oral and written evidence received in relation to the Retention of DNA/Fingerprints to the Department of Justice for a written response and to request a list of all recordable offences.

3.40 p.m. Patsy McGlone left the meeting.

5. SL1: The Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (Codes of Practice) (Revisions of Codes C, E, F and H) Order 2012

The Committee considered a proposed Statutory Rule to bring into operation revised PACE Codes of Practice C, E, F and H.  The revised Codes and SL1 were resubmitted by the Department following the Committee’s consideration of this matter at the meeting on 20 September 2012 when it agreed the revisions to Codes of Practice C, E and F and the revisions to Code H solely relating to the wider use of appropriate healthcare professionals.

Agreed:     The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposal for the Statutory Rule to bring into operation the revised PACE Codes of Practice C, E, F and H.

3.44 p.m. Raymond McCartney left the meeting.

6. SL1s: The County Courts (Financial Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012 and the County Court (Amendment No. 2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee considered proposals for the County Court (Amendment No. 2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012 which amend the County Court Rules (Northern Ireland) 1981 to make provision for scale costs and new procedures in the county court as a consequence of the intention to increase the general financial jurisdiction of the County Courts from £15,000 to £30,000 and jurisdiction of District Judges from £5,000 to £10,000.

The Committee also considered proposals for a related Statutory Rule - the County Courts (Financial Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012 to amend the County Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1980 to increase the general civil jurisdiction of the County Courts of Northern Ireland from £15,000 to £30,000 and the general jurisdiction of the district judges in the County Courts from £5,000 to £10,000.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information from the Department of Justice on the proposed uplift of costs, capacity to handle medical negligence cases and the views of the relevant professional bodies and County Court judges on the proposals.

7. Court Related Delegation Legislation – September to December 2012

The Committee considered details of the Courts Rules to be progressed before the end of December 2012.

Agreed:     The Committee agreed to request further information in relation to proposed Rules to support the introduction of intermediaries and on costs in criminal cases arising from a policy consultation by the Magistrates’ Courts Rules Committee.

8Correspondence

i The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice providing further information on the organisations the Department had consulted with in respect of the European Court of Justice Jurisdiction for Pre-Lisbon Police and Criminal Justice Measures – the 2014 block opt-out decision.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to request regular updates in relation to the ‘block-opt out’ decision from the Department of Justice.

ii The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice providing a response to the Committee for the Environment’s request for information regarding metal theft.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the correspondence to the Committee for the Environment.

iii  The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice providing information on Conviction and Sentencing Statistics for 2007 and 2008.

Agreed:     The Committee agreed to commission a research paper providing sentencing comparisons in Northern Ireland and England and Wales on the 2007 and 2008 statistics.

iv  The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing information on work to refresh the Women’s Strategy for Reducing Offending.

v  The Committee noted correspondence from Roy Beggs MLA regarding a proposal for a Private Members’ Bill to regulate Scrap Metal Dealers to address the issue of metal theft.

3.53 p.m. Patsy McGlone joined the meeting.

vi  The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for the Environment requesting further information in relation to metal theft and inviting the PSNI to brief the Committee on the matter in early 2013.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the PSNI for a response on the issues raised.

vii  The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment providing comments from AdviceNI on SL1: The Insolvency Rules 2012.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the correspondence to the Department of Justice for consideration.

viii  The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding PSNI equal pay issues.

ix    The Committee considered further correspondence from a Mr W McMaster regarding allegations of maladministration by the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

Agreed:     The Committee agreed to refer the further correspondence to the Police Ombudsman to consider as part of a previous request by the Committee to assess whether all appropriate action has been taken in this case.

x     The Committee noted the Criminal Justice Inspection Annual Report and Accounts for 2011-12.

xi    The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding the repeal of the common law offence of scandalising the court which indicated that he had advised the Minister of State, Lord McNally, that Northern Ireland should not be included in an amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill, as in his view, it is appropriate for this matter to be looked at separately in a Northern Ireland context and be subject to consultation.

Agreed:     The Committee agreed to request further information from the Minister of Justice on his proposals regarding this issue and the likely timescale to address the matter.

xii  The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice providing information on the clauses and issues highlighted by the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in relation to the Inquiry into the Historical Institutional Abuse Bill.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the response to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

xiii  The Committee considered a response from the Police Service of Northern Ireland to the Committee for the Environment’s request for information regarding metal theft.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the response to the Committee for the Environment.

xiv  The Committee considered correspondence from Assembly Education and Outreach regarding an event on Tuesday 9 October in support of the Assembly’s Charity of the Year – Action Mental Health.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed that Members should advise the Clerk if they wished to take part in this event.

xv   The Committee noted correspondence from the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission regarding the appointment of Mr Jim Peter Kitson as a Coroner for Northern Ireland.

xvi  The Committee noted the Northern Ireland Audit Office report on the PSNI Use of Agency Staff which the Public Accounts Committee would take evidence on in the near future.

9. Any other business

None.

10. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 11 October 2012 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

3.59 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
11 October 2012

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