Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 10 January 2013
Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings
The meeting commenced at 2.01 p.m. in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 13 December 2012
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 13 December 2012.
3. Matters Arising
i The Committee considered possible areas for discussion when the Lord Chief Justice attends a meeting in April/May 2013.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to add the County Court judicial complement to the list of issues for discussion.
ii The Committee noted a copy of a letter from the Minister of Justice to Lord Morrow in relation to his Private Members’ Bill on Human Trafficking and Exploitation.
iii The Committee considered an initial Forward Work Programme for January 2013 and noted that a date for a briefing on the scanners in prisons pilot project was being finalised.
4. Criminal Justice Bill – other issues
i The Committee considered the wording of the proposed amendments that the Minister of Justice intends to bring forward at Consideration Stage of the Criminal Justice Bill to make the human trafficking offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 and the new offences in the Criminal Justice Bill triable on indictment only.
2.06 p.m. Mr William Humphrey joined the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the wording of the proposed amendments.
The Committee noted that Legislative Counsel had concluded that the consequential amendment to the Serious Crime Act 2007 relating to serious crime prevention orders was not necessary as the new trafficking offences in the Criminal Justice Bill would be covered by the existing provisions in the 2007 Act without amendment.
ii The Committee considered a response from the Minister of Justice in relation to the possible reintroduction of a “Clause 34” style provision to place a statutory duty on public bodies to ensure that they take account of crime, anti-social behaviour and community safety implications in the exercise of their functions and how the concerns raised by the previous Justice Committee, which prevented the inclusion of the clause in the first Justice Bill, would be addressed.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek the views of the Attorney General in relation to the matter given that he had expressed concerns when this proposed clause was being considered by the previous Justice Committee.
2.08 p.m. Mr Patsy McGlone joined the meeting.
iii The Committee considered a response from Disability Action in relation to the Department’s reasons for including the undefined term ‘disability’ in the Criminal Justice Bill as a ground the Chief Constable must consider when determining an application to review an indefinite notification requirement.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to refer the correspondence to the Department of Justice for a response on the issues raised.
5. SL1: The Police Pension (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013
The Committee considered a proposal to make a Statutory Rule under powers conferred by sections 25(2)(k), and 26(2)(g) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 read with Articles 14 and 15 of the Superannuation (Northern Ireland) Order 1972. The Statutory Rule would amend the police pension regulations to allow, under automatic enrolment, the PSNI Part Time Reserve to be included into a qualifying pension’s scheme. The Rule would also enable any PSNI officer to opt in/out as often as they wished of the New Police Pension Scheme (NPPS) and allow the Board/PSNI as employers to opt any officer into the NPPS.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposed Statutory Rule.
6. SL1: The Costs Protection (Aarhus Convention) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013
The Committee considered a proposal to make a Statutory Rule under powers conferred by the European Communities Act 1972. The Statutory Rule would provide a legislative scheme for protected costs orders which limit applicants’ exposure to respondents’ costs for judicial reviews and statutory reviews to the High Court of decisions under the Aarhus Convention at an early stage in the proceedings. The Rule is intended to achieve compliance with the EU Public Participation Directive by ensuring that the public has access to a court procedure to challenge decisions on environmental matters which is not prohibitively expensive.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposed Statutory Rule.
7. SL1: The County Courts (Financial Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012 and the County Court (Amendment No. 2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012
The Committee considered a response from the Presiding County Court Judge on behalf of the Council of County Court Judges regarding the likely impact on judicial capacity of the proposed County Courts (Financial Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012 and the County Court (Amendment No. 2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012 which are required to accommodate changes as a consequence of the proposed increase in the civil jurisdiction of the County Court from £15,000 to £30,000 and the general jurisdiction of district judges in the County Courts from £5,000 to £10,000.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposed Statutory Rule and County Court Rules.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a copy of the report by the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission seeking an addition to the County Court judicial complement referred to by the Presiding Court Judge in his response.
8. Access to Justice Departmental Action Plan: Progress on Implementation
The Committee noted an update on the implementation of the Access to Justice departmental action plan aimed at improving Access to Justice, bringing the legal aid within budget by 2014/15, and improving governance and accountability of legal aid and a copy of the first annual report to the Public Accounts Committee on the Department’s progress in implementing the recommendations contained in the PAC report ‘Managing Criminal Legal Aid’.
9. Proposed Legislative Consent Motions relating to the Crime and Courts Bill – National Crime Agency
The Committee noted an update provided by the Department of Justice on a proposed Legislative Consent Motion for the Northern Ireland aspects of the National Crime Agency and a further possible Legislative Consent Motion to amend the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in light of a judgement in the Supreme Court.
i The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice in relation to issues raised by the Committee for Education regarding school transport and Access NI checks.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Committee for Education for information.
ii The Committee noted a summary of progress on the delivery of Department of Justice capital projects detailed in the ISNI Delivery Tracking System.
iii The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice in relation to legislative proposals recently tabled in the Crime and Courts Bill, currently before Westminster, which have an indirect impact on Northern Ireland and would provide that the court may, as an element of disposal by either a community or suspended custodial sentence, impose an electronic location monitoring requirement.
iv The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice providing an update on the timescale for the proposed way forward in relation to the review of the future governance of the Public Prosecution Service which was requested as the Minister had indicated that he would discuss the possibility of increasing the timescale within which an application must be made to the court to appeal a sentence that is unduly lenient to six weeks as part of the review.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the issue further as part of the Review of the future governance of the Public Prosecution Service.
v The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice providing further information requested by the Committee on the basis upon which the level of interim civil legal aid remuneration fees had been set for three areas of work relating to the new hearings created by the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.
vi The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice providing further statistical information requested by the Committee in relation to the recruitment competition for the NIPS Custody Officer competition which was launched in February 2012.
vii The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a copy of the Youth Justice Agency Framework Document.
viii The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel enclosing a copy of an Assembly Research paper, Financial forecasting performance data: scrutiny by committees.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that a briefing by Assembly Researchers on the paper should be scheduled into the Forward Work Programme.
ix The Committee considered correspondence from a Mr Hammond, in relation to approval of the PSNI business case to pay the NICS Pay Award for 2012 to PSNI Staff.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice in relation to the issues raised.
x The Committee noted a Criminal Justice Inspection report on an announced inspection of Maghaberry Prison which was published in December 2012.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to hold a future Committee meeting in a prison facility and a briefing by representatives of the Prison Officers’ Association on the Prison Service Reform programme ahould be included on the agenda.
xi The Committee noted the Northern Ireland Law Commission Annual Report for the year ended 31 March 2012.
xii The Committee noted the Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust Annual Report 2011/2012.
xiii The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice in relation to the procurement tender for the construction of the Northern Ireland Police, Fire and Prison Service Training College at Desertcreat and the specific requirement for Kilkenny limestone and Donegal quartz to be used.
11. Chairman’s Business
i The Chairman, on behalf of the Committee, condemned the recent threat received by Mr McGlone, and indicated Members’ support for him in carrying out his work as an MLA on behalf of his constituents.
ii The Chairman advised Members that the NI Assembly Legislative Strengthening Trust had developed an effective questioning and scrutiny workshop for Members and proposed that the Committee participate in the workshop.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that arrangements should be made for the workshop to take place on Thursday 7 February in place of the weekly Committee meeting.
12. Any Other Business
13. Briefing by Marie Stopes International on how it is complying with the Criminal Law in relation to abortion in Northern Ireland
Dorcas Crawford, Solicitor, Edwards & Company, Dawn Purvis, Programme Director,
Tracey McNeill, Vice President & Director, and Paula Franklin, Medical Director, Marie Stopes International joined the meeting at 2.28 p.m.
The representatives outlined a number of key issues relating to the delivery of services provided by the Marie Stopes private clinic in Belfast.
Mr Stewart Dickson declared an interest as a member of the All Party Group on Sexual Health.
A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the law relating to abortion in Northern Ireland; the range of services provided by the clinic including what services, if any, that are not provided elsewhere in Northern Ireland; the procedure followed to assess whether a termination of a pregnancy is necessary to preserve the life of a woman, or where there is a risk of real and serious adverse effect on her physical or mental health, which is either long term or permanent and the professional input to that assessment; how doctors’ medical assessments/clinical decisions are monitored/regulated and whether they are reported upon; how the health of clients is assessed; whether the clinic can gain access to a client’s previous health records and other relevant information; the length of time spent on interviewing/assessing clients; how many clients the clinic has dealt with since it opened; how many terminations, if any, have been carried out; the reasons for the clinic’s refusal to provide statistical figures; whether any requests for terminations have been refused; the minimum age of clients; the reasons why medical rather than surgical terminations are carried out; whether the 9-week threshold could be extended; the number and professions of people who work in the clinic; who is responsible for administering drugs and how this is regulated; the factors that influenced the location of the clinic; how the clinic is funded; the role and remit of the Regulation Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) in relation to regulating the Marie Stopes Belfast clinic and the application process; the extent of cooperation by Marie Stopes International with the RQIA and how the clinic could be regulated on a statutory basis; the extent of cooperation with the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and the Chief Medical Officer; the availability of guidance from the DHSSPS; what links exist between the Dublin based Reproductive Choices and Marie Stopes International operations in Belfast; historic allegations regarding Marie Stopes International world wide operations; financial accountability; the content of the clinic’s Business Plan; whether bonuses are paid to staff and the criteria used to assess whether bonus payments are made; the percentage of clients referred by the Department of Health in England to Marie Stopes International; what information Marie Stopes International is legally required to provide in Northern Ireland and the information it is required to provide in the UK.
The briefing was recorded by Hansard.
3.34 p.m. Mr Seán Lynch left the meeting.
3.57p.m. Mr Patsy McGlone left the meeting.
4.05 p.m. Mr William Humphrey left the meeting.
The Chairman thanked the representatives and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the matter further when the Hansard of the evidence session is available.
4.40 p.m. Mr Stewart Dickson left the meeting.
14. Six-monthly update on Department of Justice Savings Delivery Plans
Anthony Harbinson, Director of Justice Delivery and Glyn Capper, Deputy Director, Finance, Department of Justice joined the meeting at 4.40 p.m.
The officials updated Members on the Department of Justice Savings Delivery Plans.
A brief question and answer session followed covering issues including: whether the savings targets would be achieved for 2012/13 and throughout the financial period and the level of savings achieved so far; whether the Police Ombudman’s Office had given any indication of the likely level of additional funding necessary to ensure that there is no frontline service impact in relation to the timeliness and quality of investigations from 2013/14 onwards; whether the Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust had given any indication of the likelihood of it having to make any clinical posts redundant; the impact on frontline services across all agencies; the administrative areas in which savings are being made; and the levels of additional work being undertaken by the Probation Board.
The briefing was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked the officials and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information in relation to the levels of additional work being undertaken by the Probation Board.
15. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting will take place on Thursday 17 January 2013 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.
4.49p.m. The meeting was adjourned.
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
17 January 2013