Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 13 September 2012

Venue: Room 30

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

The Chairman welcomed Ms Rosie McCorley as a new Member of the Committee for Justice and advised Members that her entry into the Register of Members’ Interests had been tabled for information.

1. Apologies

None.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 5 July 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 5 July 2012.

3. Matters Arising

Draft guidance for the PSNI on temporary closure of licensed premises and registered clubs

i. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice providing clarification on an issue raised in relation to the draft guidance for the PSNI on the temporary closure of licensed premises and registered clubs. The Committee noted that the time and duration of any closure would be dictated by the needs of public safety and would not be open for negotiation with the pub or club concerned.

The Chairman advised Members that the Committee for Social Development had responded to the Committee’s request for its views on the guidance and that the matter would be dealt with at the next Committee meeting.

Reductions applied to Very High Cost Cases by the Taxing Master

ii. The Committee considered a response from the Law Society in respect of reductions applied to Very High Cost Cases by the Taxing Master and noted that a response from the Bar Council on the matter is expected before the end of September.

Consultation responses on proposals to encourage earlier guilty pleas

iii. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to issues raised by the Committee on the consultation on proposals to encourage earlier guilty pleas. Members noted the Department’s intention to explore the proposal to include a requirement for defence teams to state to the court that their client had been advised of the position in relation to early guilty pleas and the discount of sentences with key stakeholders.

Future EU funding 2014-2020

iv. The Committee considered information requested from the Department on EU Funding for 2014-2020 and the bids it is supporting from within the justice family and the work that it is undertaking to increase awareness of EU funding.

EU Directive on Human Trafficking

v. The Committee considered further information provided by the Department on the EU Directive on Human Trafficking.

4. Briefing by Assembly Researcher: Statutory Time Limits and Study Visit to Hull

Fiona O’Connell, Assembly Researcher, joined the meeting at 2.05 p.m.

Ms O’Connell outlined the key points in her research paper on Statutory Time Limits and her recent study visit to Hull and answered Members’ questions. Ms O’Connell agreed to provide the Committee with further information on the percentage of extensions required in relation to the 140-day time limit applied in Scotland for a trial to take place.

The Chairman thanked Ms O’Connell for the briefing and she left the meeting.

5. Briefing on proposals for the introduction of Statutory Time Limits  

The Committee considered responses from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Public Prosecution Service and Office of the Lord Chief Justice to the Committee’s request for views on the draft proposals for the introduction of Statutory Time Limits.

Maura Campbell, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Development Division and Chris Matthews and Jean Moore, Criminal Justice Development Division joined the meeting at 2.18 p.m.

The officials outlined the proposals for the introduction of Statutory Time Limits (STLs) and changes to processes for youth cases.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the STL pilot scheme and the limited consultation surrounding its introduction; the methods to be used to assess the outcomes from the pilot scheme; the stages in which STLs would be introduced and at what point; the legislation that would be introduced to underpin STLs; the way forward if the results of the pilot scheme indicated that STLs were not necessary; at which point STLs would come into play and the reasons for the Department’s departure from the views of the Review Team on this issue; and the likely impact on victims and agencies if STLs were not met.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Ms Campbell, Mr Matthews and Ms Moore for the briefing and they left the meeting.

6. Committee Forward Work Programme

 The Committee considered the draft Committee Forward Work Programme.

Agreed: Members agreed the draft Committee Forward Work Programme including arrangements for an informal Committee event on 25 October and the timescales for briefings on a range of issues.

7. Proposals for Committee Stages of the Criminal Justice Bill

The Committee noted that 26 responses had been received to its request for written evidence on the Criminal Justice Bill.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite the Assembly Researcher to the meeting scheduled for 20 September to outline the key points in the research paper on the EU Directive on Human Trafficking and to answer Members’ questions prior to the briefing by the OCTF Immigration and Human Trafficking sub-group.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek advice on whether the miscellaneous provision on statutory prohibitions on holding firearms proposed by Mr Ian McCrea MLA falls within the scope of the Bill.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to seek information on the likely impact on legal aid of the proposals in the Bill.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the oral evidence sessions for the Bill and to seek information/clarification from the Department on a range of related issues. The Committee also agreed to forward a copy of the written submissions to the Department.

The Committee considered a motion to extend the Committee Stage of the Justice Bill.

Question put and agreed:

That, in accordance with Standing Order 33(4), the period referred to in Standing Order 33(2) be extended to 14 December 2012, in relation to the Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice Bill (NIA Bill 10/11-15).

3.11p.m. Peter Weir left the meeting.

8. S.R. 2012/268 The Criminal Legal Aid (Recovery of Defence Costs Orders) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012 

The Committee considered Statutory Rule 2012/268 The Criminal Legal Aid (Recovery of Defence Costs Orders) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012 which makes provision for the regulation of the circumstances where convicted defendants in the Crown Court, who are in receipt of criminal legal aid, will be required to pay some or all of the costs of their defence, where the court considers that they have the means to pay such costs, subject to appropriate account being taken of issues raised in relation to dependants and the family home.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice considered Statutory Rule 2012/268 The Criminal Legal Aid (Recovery of Defence Costs Orders) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012 and has no objection to the Rule.

9.  S.R. 2012/273 The Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) (Amendment No.2) 2012

The Committee considered Statutory Rule 2012/273 The Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) (Amendment No.2) 2012 which makes governs practice and procedure in the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice considered Statutory Rule 2012/273 The Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) (Amendment No.2) 2012 and has no objection to the Rule.

10. Consideration of Draft Guidance by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland pursuant to Section 8 of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2004 in relation to Forensic Science Northern Ireland

The Committee considered correspondence from Forensic Science NI and the Department of Justice in relation to the Attorney General’s draft guidance to FSNI on the exercise of its functions in a manner consistent with international human rights standards. Correspondence from the Attorney General regarding consultation on the draft guidance and providing a copy of his guidance for the State Pathologist’s Department was also considered by the Committee.

3.08p.m. Tom Elliott joined the meeting.

3.11p.m. Peter Weir joined the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that a copy of the draft guidance in relation to FSNI should be forwarded to the Chief Constable for his views and comments on its practical implications.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek the views of the State Pathologist on the draft guidance issued by the Attorney General in relation to his Department.

11. Inquiry into Criminal Justice Services available to Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Northern Ireland – Departmental Response 

The Committee considered a formal response from the Department to the Report on its Inquiry into Criminal Justice Services available to Victims and Witnesses of Crime. The Committee noted that twenty-four of the thirty recommendations contained in the Report had been accepted in full and six had been accepted in principle. The Committee also noted that there would be an opportunity to discuss the Department’s response further when considering the draft 5-year strategy for victims and witnesses of crime in October.

Agreed: Members agreed to publish a copy of the Department’s response on the Committee’s webpage and to send a copy to the respondents to its consultation.

12. Launch of Intermediaries Service for vulnerable witnesses and defendants

Members considered information provided by the Department on Registered Intermediary Schemes for vulnerable witnesses and defendants. The Committee noted that Commencement Orders would need to be made in respect of the Scheme and would be referred the Committee in due course.

13. Members’ Attendance Figures

The Committee noted information in respect of Members’ attendance at Committee meetings during the 2011/12 session.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to respond to the Committee Clerk by 5pm on Friday 14 September confirming that the information is correct or highlighting any errors. The Committee also agreed that the Clerk should highlight in her response that the figures do not take account of absences due to sickness or attendance at other Committee meetings and that a footnote to this effect should be inserted.

14. Correspondence

i The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing further detail on the legislative requirements of the Access to Justice Review’s recommendations and the need for Executive approval.

ii The Committee noted a response from the Minister of Justice in relation to the Secretary of State’s Direction under Section A(7) of the Prison Act (NI) 1953 as amended by Schedule 4 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Devolution of Policing and Justice Functions) Order 2010.

iii The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice providing the Second Quarterly report on Equality and Diversity in the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

iv The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice regarding the Valuation Tribunal (Amendment No. 3) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012.

v The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice in relation to the publication of the Vulnerable and Intimidated Witness Working Group Action Plan.

vi The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice regarding the lack of available sentencing data beyond 2006.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek clarification from the Department on the reasons for the delay in addressing technical difficulties and whether it is now in a position to publish sentencing data in a timely manner.

vii The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice regarding the European Court of Justice Jurisdiction for Pre-Lisbon Police and Criminal Justice Measures in 2014 – Block Opt-out Decision.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek further information from the Department on the organisations it is/has consulted with in relation to this matter.

viii The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice on the current policies and procedures relating to the granting of temporary release on compassionate grounds for prisoners in general and Martin Corey specifically.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek more specific information from the Department on this matter.

ix The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the Savings Delivery Plans 2011 – 2012 provisional outturn and the June in-year monitoring round.

x The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice regarding Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department expressing its views on the anomoly that appears to exist in relation to serving councillors being eligible to sit as independent members of Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.

xi The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding a       Ministerial Direction in respect of Very High Cost Cases.

xii The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding a High Court Application in relation to Court Funds Practice and Procedure.

xiii The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice on the maximum hourly rate for Civil Legal Aid cases broken down by case and the level of barrister or solicitor.

xiv The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice regarding the provision of search and rescue services for the River Lagan.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Committee for Social Development.

xv The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice providing clarification of the Department’s position on residual matters arising from the NICS Equal Pay settlement.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Committee for Finance and Personnel.

xvi The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice regarding the recruitment and appointment process for the second police ombudsman.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to Minister of Justice expressing its dissatisfaction at the way in which his officials have dealt with the Committee on this issue.

xvii The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice on the Police Museum.

xviii The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the launch of a competition on 5 September 2012 to appoint a Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.

xix The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice in relation to Dr Maguire’s comments on the revised action plan in response to the CJI Report on the Care and Treatment of Victims and Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System.

xx The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice on the Community Safety Strategy.

xxi The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice on its draft Disability Action Plan.

xxii The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice on the development of a new joint Domestic and Sexual Violence Strategy due to be published in September 2013.

xxiii The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice on its savings targets for 2011-12.

xxiv The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice providing further detail on the legislative requirements of the Youth Justice Review recommendations and the need for Executive approval.

xxv The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice attaching a copy of the Forensic Science Northern Ireland 2012-13 Business Plan.

xxvi The Committee noted correspondence from the Clerk to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse Bill.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to refer the correspondence to the Department to request its views on the likely implications for the Department of particular clauses and elements of the Terms of Reference.

xxvii The Committee noted correspondence from the Clerk to the Committee for the Environment regarding metal theft.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice, the Policing Board and the Chief Constable for a response on the issues raised.

xxviii The Committee noted correspondence from the Clerk to the Employment and Learning Committee regarding an Inquiry into Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to issue a nil response as the Inquiry does not cover justice matters.

xxix The Committee noted correspondence from the Clerk to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy first Minister on the OFMDFM Committee’s legislative proposals for the Assembly Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to refer the correspondence to the Department to request its views on the justice-related implications arising from the legislative proposals.

xxx The Committee noted correspondence from Lord Morrow on the consultation on his proposed Private Members’ Bill on Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims).

xxxi The Committee noted correspondence from the Commission on a Bill of Rights regarding its second consultation paper.

xxxii The Committee noted correspondence from Ms B Harkin on why the courts accept a public case from a private citizen.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department and request that it responds directly to Ms Harkin and provides the Committee with a copy of the response.

xxxiii The Committee noted correspondence from Mr P Morris asking for clarification of whether being a victim of Psychopsema amounts to a criminal offence.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department for response.

xxxiv The Committee noted correspondence from the Public Prosecution Service regarding       the decision to prosecute in the Rebecca McKeown case.

xxxv The Committee noted correspondence from the Policing Board of Northern Ireland regarding concerns raised by the Old Warren Community Association and the Committee’s query on appointments to the new Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Old Warren Community Association for information.

xxxvi The Committee noted a copy of a letter from Coleraine Borough Council to the   Minister of Justice regarding its concerns on the proposed closure of HMP Magilligan and requesting a meeting.

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

xxxvii The Committee noted correspondence from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities regarding the actions that are being taken to implement the findings of the Committee’s Inquiry into the Criminal Justice Services available to Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

3.47p.m. Jim Wells left the meeting

xxxviii The Committee noted correspondence from the Northern Ireland Firearms Dealers and  Shooters Association requesting an opportunity to brief the Committee on the proposed changes to the Firearms Order 2004.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing from the Northern Ireland Firearms Dealers and Shooters Association.

xxxix The Committee noted correspondence from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for  Children and Young People in relation to the Participation Awards 2012-13.

xl The Committee noted two pieces of correspondence from Ms E Davidson regarding her concerns on the handling of Wills/Probate by the Law Society and the solicitors they regulate and the need for a Legal Ombudsman.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of   Justice for a response regarding the current regulation arrangements for solicitors and the need for a Legal Ombudsman.

xli The Committee noted correspondence from Mr J Boyd regarding the Committee’s Inquiry into the Criminal Justice Services available to Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

3.47p.m. Patsy McGlone left the meeting

xlii The Committee noted correspondence from Mr W McMaster regarding allegations of maladministration by the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the newly appointed Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, to consider whether all appropriate action has been taken in this case.

xliii The Committee noted a report on Bail in Criminal Proceedings from the Northern Ireland Law Commission.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request details of the action the Department intends to take in response to this report.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite the Law Commission to brief the Committee on its findings and recommendations.

15. Chairman’s Business

i The Chairman outlined his recent meeting with members of the group Families Against Supergrass Trials.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister and the Director of Public Prosecutions on issues relating to the collapse of the Stewart brothers’ supergrass trial.

ii Members noted an invitation from the Director of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation to a firearms dealer’s evening on Tuesday, 18 September 2012 at 7pm in Island Hall, Lagan Valley Island, Lisburn. The Chairman advised that he planned to attend the event and asked Members to contact the Clerk if they also wished to attend.

iii Members considered a copy of a Daily Mail article ‘Parents and social workers facing fines threat in bid to cut delays in child custody cases’ and a report which sets out the judicial response to the Family Justice Review in England and Wales and makes proposals for the modernisation of family justice.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to refer the article and report to the Minister of Justice for his views and to request details of the action his Department intends to take to modernise the area of family justice and the family courts, and the likely timescales.

16. Any other business

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek information from the Department on those cases where the Compensation Agency refused to compensate individuals on the grounds that they did not cooperate with the police, despite the police stating otherwise.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek information from the Chief Constable on claims brought by PSNI officers against victims of car crime in particular circumstances.

17. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 20 September 2012 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

4.01 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
20 September 2012

 

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