Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 12 January 2012

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 2.03 p.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 15 December 2011

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 15 December 2011.

3. Matters Arising

i. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for further information on its draft Disability Action Plan.

2.04 p.m. Mr McCrea joined the meeting.

ii. The Committee was advised that the PSNI had written asking to submit a revised response to the Committee’s Inquiry into Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to accept the PSNI’s revised response to Inquiry.

2.06 p.m. Ms McCann joined the meeting.

iii. The Committee noted the forward work programme for January/February.

iv. The Committee noted a paper outlining the proposed programme for the visit and evidence event in Lisburn next Thursday 19 January in relation to the Committee Inquiry.

4. Six–monthly up-date briefing on the Department of Justice’s Savings Delivery Plans

Anthony Harbison, Director of Justice Delivery; Glyn Capper, Deputy Director of Finance; and Mark Bryson, Acting Head Financial Planning and Control, joined the meeting at 2.09 p.m.

The officials provided the Committee with a six-monthly up-date brief on the Department’s Savings Delivery Plans.

Mr Givan declared an interest in respect of the Northern Ireland Prison Service Staff Exit Scheme as a family member is an employee of the NI Prison Service.

A question and answer session followed covering issues such as the increase in the cost of the Prison Service Exit Scheme; how the savings plans impact on the role of the Probation Board; the cost of the introduction of a payment for attendance at Policing and Community Safety Partnership meetings; the impact of the savings delivery plans on front line services; an update on the issue relating to PSNI equal pay; and the Department of Justice process for developing the savings delivery plans with its agencies.

2.16 p.m. Mr Maginness joined the meeting.

During the evidence session the officials agreed to provide further information on the anticipated cost of introducing a payment for attendance at Policing and Community Safety Partnership meetings and what frontline services would be impacted upon by the savings delivery plans.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

2.28 p.m. Mr Wells joined the meeting.

5. Briefing on the draft Strategic Framework for Reducing Offending

Brian Grzymek, Deputy Director Reducing Offending and John Todd, Head of Reducing Offending Unit, Department of Justice; Sharon Beattie, Head of Custody Healthcare and Reducing Offending, PSNI; and Paul Doran, Deputy Director, Probation Board NI joined the meeting at 2.28 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on the draft Strategic Framework for Reducing Offending.

2.37 p.m. Mr Weir left the meeting.

A question and answer session followed covering issues such as the Department of Justice’s collaborative working with other government departments to reduce offending; the views of the Department on early intervention strategies to reduce offending; how the Department works remand prisoners to prepare them for sentencing; what arrangements there are for working with the families of young offenders to reduce offending; and the willingness of the Department to fund early intervention programmes.

During the evidence session the officials agreed to provide the Committee with a breakdown in the outcome of the cases of the remand population.

3.16 p.m. Mr Anderson left the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Mr Grzymek, Mr Todd, and Ms Beattie for the briefing and they left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the draft Strategic Framework.

6. Briefing on the results of the Consultation on a Review of Community Sentencing and proposals for the way forward

Gareth Johnston, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Policy and Legislation Division and Anne O’Connell, Criminal Policy Unit, Department of Justice joined Paul Doran at 3.24 p.m.

The officials brief the Committee on the results of the Consultation on a Review of Community Sentencing and the Minister’s proposed way forward.

A question and answer session followed covering issues such as the details of the legislative presumption against prison sentences of three months or less; the official’s views on how community sentencing will deter reoffending; what impact the legislative presumption would have on the discretion of the judiciary; and whether the proposals would add to the complexity of the sentencing process.

4.08 p.m. Mr Maginness left the meeting.

4.27 p.m. Mr McCartney left the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting a profile of the offences of those prisoners who are on a prison sentence of three months or less.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a visit to the Probation Board into the Committee’s work programme.

7. Response from the Police Ombudsman regarding the oral evidence given to the Committee for Justice on 8 September 2011

The Committee noted a response from the Police Ombudsman to the Committee’s request for clarification regarding his evidence to the Committee meeting on 8 September 2011 in relation to the Criminal Justice Inspection report into the independence of the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

8. Draft Long-Term Policing Objectives

The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice regarding the views of the Policing Board on the Long-Term Policing Objectives and noted that the Policing Board considered the proposed Long-Term Policing Objectives at its Corporate Policy, Planning and Performance Committee (CPPPC) meeting on 15 December 2011 and was content for the objectives to be published. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the Minister of Justice to publish the Long-Term Policing Objectives.

9. Proposals for implementing the EU Directive on Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland

The Committee considered proposals from the Department of Justice regarding the legislative changes required as a consequence of the UK Government’s opt-in to the EU Directive on Human Trafficking and all UK jurisdictions.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that they were content with the proposed approach by the Minister of Justice to bring forward the legislative changes required to implement the EU Directive on Human Trafficking through the Criminal Justice Bill.

10. Update on Delivery of Speeding up Justice Programme

The Committee considered an up-date from the Department of Justice on the on-going multi agency programme of work to tackle delay in criminal cases. and noted that the Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJI) was due to publish an annual progress report in relation to the recommendations in its 2010 report on avoidable delay on 24 January.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the information provided by the Department once the CJI annual progress report in relation to the recommendations in its 2010 report on avoidable delay was available.

4.36 p.m. Mr Maginness rejoined the meeting.

11. Response from the Department of Justice regarding the Part-Time Reserve Gratuity Scheme

The Committee considered responses from the Department of Justice and from the Northern Ireland Office, to the Committee’s request for information on how the tax liability issue arising from the Part-Time Reserve Gratuity Scheme was raised, including when it was first raised, the discussions/consideration of how it would be handled and when the stakeholders were advised of the likely tax implications.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee regarding the administration of the Part-Time Reserve Gratuity Scheme.

12. SR 2011/405 The Banning Orders (Prescribed Persons) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/405 specifying persons to whom each football banning order, and each order terminating a football banning order, is to be copied by the court. It forms part of the administrative arrangements needed to support the police in the enforcement of football banning orders. The rule is subject to negative resolution.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice considered Statutory Rule No 2011/405 The Banning Orders (Prescribed Persons) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011 and had no objection to the Rule.

13.  SR 2011/408 Police Service of Northern Ireland Reserve (Full-Time) (Severance) (Amendment) Regulations 2011

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/408 which corrects the anomaly that requires the Department of Justice to seek the consent of HM Treasury by transferring the power of consent to the Department of Finance and Personnel.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice considered Statutory Rule No 2011/408 Police Service of Northern Ireland Reserve (Full-Time) (Severance) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 and had no objection to the Rule.

14. SR 2011/419 The Criminal Appeal (Prosecution Appeals) (Banning Orders) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/419 which prescribes the procedure to be followed in relation to an appeal by the prosecution to the Court of Appeal against a failure of a Crown Court Judge to make a banning order. The rule is subject to negative resolution.

Agreed:  The Committee for Justice considered Statutory Rule No 2011/419 The Criminal Appeal (Prosecution Appeals) (Banning Orders) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011 and had no objection to the Rule.

15. SR 2011/420 The Crown Court (Amendment No.2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/420 which amends the special measures provisions in the Crown Court (Northern Ireland) Rules 1979 for witnesses to opt out of the ‘primary rule’ and sets out the procedure for opposing an application to opt-out of the ‘primary rule’. The Rule also makes a number of other minor “tidy-up” amendments to the Crown Court Rules to take account of the amendments made by the 2011 Act. The rule is subject to negative resolution.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice considered Statutory Rule No 2011/420 The Crown Court (Amendment No.2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011 and had no objection to the Rule.

16. SR 2011/428 The Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Review of Sentencing) Order (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No SR 2011/428 which ensures that certain sexual offences introduced by the Sexual Offences (NI) Order 2008 can be referred by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the Court of Appeal if the sentence passed appears unduly lenient.  The Statutory Rule also revokes certain  provisions from the Criminal Justice Act 1998 (Reviews of Sentencing) Order (Northern Ireland) 1996 which were re-enacted as part of a consolidation exercise in the Criminal Justice Act 1998 (Reviews of Sentencing) Order 2006 but remained listed in the 1996 Order.

4.45 p.m. Ms McCann left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice agreed to write to the Department of Justice seeking clarification on whether the time limit for referral of a case to the Court of Appeal is to be 28 days for the offences covered by this Statutory Rule.

17.  SL1 – Police Service of Northern Ireland Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 2012

The Committee considered proposals for a Statutory Rule detailing how increases to police pension contribution rates would be structured.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice asking if it had received confirmation from the Home Office of its decision on whether the Statutory Rule will refer to all three years or to 1 year as with other public sector workers.

18. SL1 – The Valuation Tribunal (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee considered a response from the Committee for the Environment to the Committee’s request for its views on the proposals for the Statutory Rule.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposal for the Statutory Rule.

19.  SL1 – Joint SL1: The Building Society Insolvency Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012 and the Building Society Special Administration Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee considered a response from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to the Committee’s request for its views on the proposals for the Statutory Rule.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposal for the Statutory Rule.

20.  Correspondence

i. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice informing the Committee of the Royal Assent of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) Act 2011.

ii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding an Authorisation he has made in relation to the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) Act 2011. The authorisation will make civil legal aid available for TPIM proceedings on the same basis as legal aid was available previously for control order proceedings.

iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding the opening times of the interface security gates on Northumberland Street in Belfast.

iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding his decision to make permanent the interim scheme to waive the income and capital limits for those seeking injunctions for the protection of harm to a person, such as Non-Molestation Orders.

v. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice providing a copy of his response to the publication by the UK Government of a Green Paper on Justice and Security: The use of sensitive information in civil proceedings. 

vi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice providing the results of the feasibility study on the introduction of community impact assessments to Northern Ireland.

vii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for additional information in relation to the proposed closure of 5 Hearing Centres.

viii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for an update on the Department’s performance against targets for the prompt payment of invoices.

ix. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for additional information on plans for a Supervised Activity Order (SAO) pilot scheme.

x. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing an update on the payment of expenses to members of the Policing and Community Safety Partnerships. 

xi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice outlining the Minister of Justice’s exercise of the functions set out in the Agency Arrangements agreed between him and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in relation to land requisition or road closure.

xii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing information on sick absence data for staff in the Department of Justice during 2010/11 and highlighting that the target set for 2010/11 of 10.6 days was not met.

xiii. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for information on any liaison between the PSNI and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service in relation to hoax calls.

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

xiv. The Committee considered a copy of correspondence from Mr Finlay Spratt, Chairman, Prison Officers Association to the Minister of Justice regarding the Prison Reform Programme.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a copy of the response from the Minister to Mr Spratt.

xv. The Committee noted a response from the NI Policing Board regarding the relationship between the Board and the Organised Crime Task Force and its views on the draft NI Organised Crime Strategy 2011-2015.

xvi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety regarding the level of officials representing each department on the Ministerial Group on Public Health and requesting that the Committee for Justice write to the Department of Justice requesting that a senior civil servant sit on the Group.

xvii. The Committee considered correspondence from Lisburn District Policing Partnership regarding the proposed civilianisation of the serving of Non-Molestation Orders and seeking an opportunity to make presentation to the Committee.

Agreed:The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice seeking further information on the issues raised by Lisburn District Policing Partnership.

xviii. The Committee considered correspondence from a retired injured Member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary regarding an Injury on Duty Award.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department seeking further information on the issues raised.

xix. The Committee noted the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report for the Department of Justice – December 2011 – Nil Return.

xx. The Committee noted an invitation from the Children’s Law Centre to the launch of a peer advocacy training programme for young people called ‘Road to Rights’ on Tuesday 20 March 2012 at 5.30pm in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings.

xxi. The Committee noted an invitation from VOYPIC - Voice of Young People in Care - to Care Leavers’ Question Time on Wednesday 18 January 2012 at 4.30pm in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings.

xxii. The Committee noted an invitation from the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to a Lunch Reception with industry representatives and stakeholders on Thursday 26 January at 12.15 – 1.45pm in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings.

4.57 p.m. Ms McCann rejoined the meeting.

21.  Chairman’s Business

i.  The Chairman informed the Committee that that he held an introductory meeting with the new Director of the Public Prosecution Service, Barra McGrory, on 20 December 2011.

ii. The Chairman informed the Committee that both he and the Deputy Chairman have accepted an invitation to meet with the Criminal Justice Board during its Strategic Planning Event which will be held on 17/18 January to discuss and consider further priorities for the criminal justice system.

iii. The Chairman proposed writing to the Department of Justice requesting an up-date report on the NICTS Review of Court Orders made in sexual offences cases (1997-2011). 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting an up-date report on the completion of the review.

iv.  The Chairman advised the Committee that there is a Department of Justice document entitled “Programme for Government Commitments 2011-2015: Reform the Administration of Prisons” (which refers to prison uniforms and emblems).

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting a copy of the report and all other reports relevant to the Department’s Programme for Government commitments.

22.  Any other business

None.

23.  Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 19 January 2012 at 2.00 p.m. in the Cherry Room Lagan Valley Island Complex, Lisburn.

5.04 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice

19 January 2012

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