Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 13 December 2012

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 2.12 p.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meetings held on 4 December and 6 December 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meetings held on 4 December and 6 December 2012

3. Matters Arising

i    The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding amendments relating to the human trafficking provisions that the Minister of Justice intends to bring forward at Consideration Stage of the Criminal Justice Bill. The amendments would remove human trafficking cases from the Magistrates’ Courts and amend Part 2 of Schedule 1 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 to include in it the new trafficking offences being created in the Criminal Justice Bill.

Agreed: The Committee agreed in principle to the proposed amendments and to request the wording of the draft amendments to assist further consideration.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Chairman should reflect the position when speaking on behalf of the Committee at Consideration Stage of the Bill.

ii    The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding the possible reintroduction of a ‘Clause 34’ style provision to place a statutory duty on public bodies to ensure that they take account of community safety implications in the exercise of their functions.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information on how the concerns raised by the previous Justice Committee in relation to such a clause would be addressed to assist consideration of the issue.

4. Committee Stage: Criminal Justice Bill – Approval of Committee Report

The Committee considered a draft report on the Criminal Justice Bill.

One amendment was proposed to remove paragraph 9 from the Executive Summary of the report.

Title Page, Committee Membership and Powers, Table of Contents and List of Abbreviations

The Committee considered the Title page, Committee Membership and Powers, Table of Contents and List of Abbreviations.

“Question: That the Committee is content with the Title page, Committee Membership  and Powers, Table of Contents and List of Abbreviations as drafted put and agreed to”. 

Introduction

The Committee considered the Introduction section of the report.

“Question: That the Committee is content with the Introduction (paragraphs 1 to 15) as drafted put and agreed to”. 

Consideration of Evidence

The Committee considered the Consideration of Evidence section of the report relating to sex offender provisions.

“Question: That the Committee is content with the Consideration of Evidence section of the report relating to sex offender provisions (paragraphs 1 to 84) as drafted put and agreed to”. 

The Committee considered the Consideration of Evidence section of the report relating to human trafficking provisions.

“Question: That the Committee is content with the Consideration of Evidence section of the report relating to human trafficking provisions (paragraphs 85 to 236) as drafted put and agreed to”. 

The Committee considered the Consideration of Evidence section of the report relating to DNA/Fingerprint retention provisions.

“Question: That the Committee is content with the Consideration of Evidence section of the report relating to DNA/Fingerprint retention provisions (paragraphs 237 to 424) as drafted put and agreed to”. 

Consideration of Other Proposed Provisions for Inclusion in the Bill

The Committee considered the Consideration of Other Proposed Provisions for Inclusion in the Bill section of the report.

“Question: That the Committee is content with the Consideration of Other Proposed Provisions for Inclusion in the Bill section of the report as drafted put and agreed to”. 

Clause by Clause consideration of the Bill

The Committee considered the Clause by Clause consideration of the Bill section of the report.

“Question: That the Committee is content with the Clause by Clause consideration of the Bill section of the report as drafted put and agreed to”. 

Appendices

The Committee considered the Appendices section of the report.

“Question: That the Committee is content with the contents of the Appendices to be included in the report put and agreed to”. 

Executive Summary

The Committee considered the Executive Summary of the report.

“Question: That the Committee is content with paragraphs 1 to 8 of the Executive Summary as drafted put and agreed to”. 

“Question: That the Committee is content that paragraph 9 of the Executive Summary is removed put and agreed to”. 

“Question: That the Committee is content with paragraphs 10 to 32 of the Executive Summary as drafted put and agreed to”. 

Agreed:    The Committee agreed that it was content for the Chairman to approve an extract of the Minutes of Proceedings of today’s meeting for inclusion in Appendix 1 of the report. 

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to order the Report on the Criminal Justice Bill (NIA 86/11-15) to be printed.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed that an electronic copy of the Bill report should be sent to all organisations and individuals who provided evidence to the Committee on the Bill.

The Chairman thanked the Committee team, Hansard and all other Assembly staff who had assisted the Committee during its scrutiny of the Bill.

5. Review of Community Sentences: Revised Approach

Gareth Johnston, Deputy Director and Anne O’Connell, Criminal Justice Policy and Legislation Division, Department of Justice, joined the meeting at 2.24 p.m.

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

Officials outlined a proposed revised approach in relation to community sentences following concerns raised by some Committee Members and in the Executive.

A detailed discussion followed covering issues including: whether the judiciary can consider community sentences at present; the reasons for putting the consideration of community sentences into legislation and whether it is necessary; the levels of recidivism; the costs associated with short prison sentences compared to community sentences; the need to consider the matter of community sentencing in the context of prison reform; whether there is a restorative justice element to community sentencing; and whether community sentences require the consent of the offender.

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

Agreed:    The Committee for Justice noted the revised approach and agreed to discuss the matter further in the context of the Faster, Fairer Justice Bill.

6. January 2013 Monitoring Round and Civil Legal Aid Expenditure Assessment

Glyn Capper, Deputy Director of Finance and Mark Bryson, Acting Head of Financial Planning, Department of Justice, joined the meeting at 2.48 p.m.

2.48 p.m. Mr Tom Elliott joined the meeting.

2.50 p.m. Mr Jim Wells joined the meeting.

Officials outlined the Department’s January 2013 Monitoring Round return and updated the Committee on its civil legal aid expenditure assessment.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: whether the switch in funds from capital to resource would meet the pressure on legal aid; what capital projects would not commence as a result of the switch of funds from capital to resource; how the Department is taking account of the Executive’s desire to have capital projects ready to commence should funding become available; the reasons for the lower than forecast compensation payments; whether the criteria or assessment process for compensation claims had changed; the number and level of miscarriage of justice payments; the reasons why the Department does not have a budget line for miscarriage of justice payments; how miscarriage of justice payments are funded; the reasons for the easement in PSNI additional security funding; whether hearing loss claims were reducing in number or expenditure; whether civilian staff are entitled to submit hearing loss claims; the reasons for the increase in civil legal aid costs; and the role of mediation in claim cases.

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

Agreed:    The Committee for Justice agreed to request further information on the miscarriage of justice cases and payments, hearing loss claims and criminal appeal payments.

7. Consideration of draft guidance from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland on the exercise of named criminal justice organisations’ functions in a manner consistent with international human rights standards

The Committee considered three pieces of draft guidance from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland on the exercise of functions in a manner consistent with international human rights standards which would be subject to negative resolution procedure in the Assembly:

i    Draft Guidance for Forensic Science Northern Ireland

The Committee  considered a response from the PSNI in relation to the Attorney General’s draft guidance for Forensic Science Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice agreed to forward the response from the PSNI, and the responses that had been received previously from the Minister of Justice and the Chief Executive of Forensic Science NI, to the Attorney General for consideration when finalising his guidance for Forensic Science NI.

ii   Draft Guidance for the State Pathologist’s Department

The Committee considered responses from the State Pathologist and the Department of Justice in relation to the Attorney General’s draft guidance for the State Pathologist’s Department. The State Pathologist had recommended one amendment to the guidance which was supported by the Department of Justice.         

Agreed: The Committee for Justice agreed to refer the proposed amendment to the Attorney General and ask him to consider it when finalising his guidance for the State Pathologist’s Department.

iii Draft Guidance for Criminal Justice Organisations on Human Rights Standards relevant to the protection of the Right to Life

The Committee considered draft guidance by the Attorney General on human rights       standards for Criminal Justice Organisations to assist them in discharging their duty to protect the lives of those in their employment against the criminal acts of third parties.           

Agreed: The Committee for Justice agreed that it was content with the draft guidance.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek clarification from the Attorney General on the legal status of the three pieces of guidance once they were laid in the Assembly.

8. Policy proposals on the rationalisation of the functions of the Office of the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Ombudsman

The Committee considered proposals from the Department of Justice on the rationalisation of the functions of the Office of the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Ombudsman.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that briefings by the Judicial Appointments Ombudsman and departmental officials should be scheduled into the forward work programme to assist further consideration of this matter.

9. Correspondence

i      The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a copy of the Northern Ireland Prison Service’s action plan developed in response to the recommendations contained in the Criminal Justice Inspection report on the Management of life and indeterminate sentence prisoners in Northern Ireland.

ii     The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a copy of the Department’s draft action plan developed in response to the recommendations contained in the Criminal Justice Inspection report on Anti-Social Behaviour – An inspection of the criminal justice system’s approach to addressing anti-social behaviour in Northern Ireland.

iii    The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice providing a response to the concerns raised by the Prisoner Officers’ Association Prison Escorting and Court Custody Service (PECCS) Group in relation to security issues.

Agreed:     The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the response to the Prison Officers’ Association Prison Escorting and Court Custody Service Group for information.

iv    The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a response to  the Committee’s request for information in relation to the European Court of Justice’s ruling concerning Gender Neutral Insurance Benefits and Premiums.

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 for information.

v     The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a copy of its response to Mr John Ringland regarding his legal complaint against Lisburn Technical College in relation to the provision of basic education training.

vi    The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency’s report on the analysis of sick absence in the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the figures for the Department.

vii   The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a copy of the Home Office consultation on the Future Regulation of the Private Security Industry which extends to Northern Ireland.

viii  The Committee considered a response from the Police Service of Northern Ireland to the Committee’s request for information in relation to car crime and personal injury claims by PSNI officers.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to write to the Association of British Insurers and the Northern Ireland Policing Board to highlight its concerns and seek their views on the matter and to copy the correspondence to the Committee for the Environment and the All Party Group on Motor Insurance.

ix    The Committee noted the NI Law Commission’s consultation paper on the legal framework relating to Apartments and options for changes.

x     The Committee noted a copy of the Northern Ireland Policing Board response to the Minister of Justice in relation to the proposed protocol on the Policing Architecture.

xi    The Committee noted correspondence from Bryson Charitable Group providing a copy of its Annual Review for 2011-12.

xii   The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice in relation to the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union – Sub-Committee E and Sub-Committee F Joint Inquiry into the UK’s 2012 Opt-out Decision (Protocol 36)

Agreed:   The Committee agreed to write to the House of Lords Select Committee highlighting that full account must be taken of the likely effect of an opt-out decision in Northern Ireland give our unique position as the only region in the UK to share a land border with another Member State.

xiii  The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice enclosing a copy of the Departmental Authorisation regarding the Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance signed at the Hague on 23 November 2007.

xiv  The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Secretary of State intended to introduce an offence of providing false information in relation to application for an electoral identity card in a forthcoming Westminster Bill.

xv   The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice in relation to a Commencement Order which would bring in two powers contained in the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 on 7 January 2013: Section 82 - Eligibility of persons in receipt of guarantee credit; and Section 86 – Scope of civil legal services.

3.28 p.m. Mr Patsy McGlone left the meeting.

xvi  The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice which detailed discrepancies in figures which were included in a briefing note provided to the Committee for its meeting on 22 November 2012 in relation to the Hearing Centre proposals and providing revised figures.

xvii The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice to Stewart Dickson confirming that departmental officials had briefed Department of Justice and Equality colleagues in the Republic of Ireland on the Justice Committee Inquiry report on Victims and Witnesses of Crime at their Support for Victims Project Advisory Group meeting which had taken place in September 2012.

xviii The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice in relation to the EU Directive on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims, advising that the implementation of the e-Commerce Directive in relation to human trafficking offences, though connected with criminal law, deals with internet services and is therefore a reserved matter and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport would make the necessary subordinate regulations to cover Northern Ireland, once the Criminal Justice Bill had received Royal Assent.

xix The Committee noted the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 March 2012.

10.  Chairman’s Business

i. The Chairman advised Members that both he and the deputy Chairman had been invited to visit the Victim and Witness Care Unit pilot in Belfast to meet with staff delivering the service and to receive a brief overview of the progress of the pilot to date. The Chairman indicated that he was likely to attend.

ii   The Chairman informed Members that he would send Christmas cards to the main justice stakeholders on behalf of the Committee.

3.31 p.m. Mr Alex Easton joined the meeting.

iii The Chairman advised Members that the Lord Chief Justice had indicated that he would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Committee in April or May 2013 and a range of issues for discussion had been circulated.

Agreed: The Committee welcomed the proposed attendance of the Lord Chief Justice and agreed to consider any other issues they wished to discuss at the meeting on 10 January 2013.

iv  The Chairman advised Members that the briefing on the pilot project on scanners in  prisons would be arranged before the end of January 2013 and asked Members to contact the Committee Clerk if they wished to view a scanner in operation at either HMP Magilligan or Hydebank Young Offenders Centre prior to the briefing.

Agreed: Members agreed to contact the Committee Clerk regarding the location of the scanner they wished to view.

11.  Any Other Business

None.

12.  Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 10 January 2013 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

3.35 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
10 January 2013

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