Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 14 February 2013

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 2.10 p.m. in public session.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to hold agenda items 10 and 11 in closed session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 31 January 2013

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 31 January 2013.

3. Matters Arising

The Committee noted an updated Forward Work Programme for February and March 2013 which included oral briefings from the Criminal Justice Inspectorate on its follow up review of the Office of the Police Ombudsman and the Police Ombudsman on the resumption of historical investigations on 7 March 2013.

ii.  The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice in relation to the concerns raised by Disability Action regarding the inclusion in the Criminal Justice Bill of the undefined term ‘disability’ as a ground the Chief Constable must consider when determining an application to review an indefinite notification. The response explained that the drafting of the provision in the Bill is largely dependent on the wording of the provision in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to Disability Action.

iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising of a further Ministerial amendment to the DNA and fingerprint retention framework provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill relating to Diversionary Youth Conferences as a result of proposed amendments to juvenile cautions.

iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Minister of Justice plans to bring forward an amendment relating to public order offences at Further Consideration Stage of the Criminal Justice Bill.

4. SR 2013/18 The County Courts (Financial Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and SR 2013/19 The County Court (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No. 2013/18 The County Courts (Financial Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 which is 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.

2.18 p.m. Mr Sean Lynch joined the meeting.

2.18 p.m. Ms Rosie McCorley joined the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice considered SR 2013/18 The County Courts (Financial Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and has no objection to the Rule.

The Committee noted that Statutory Rule No. 2013/19 The County Court (Amendment No. 2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2013, which also accommodated 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, was made by the Northern Ireland County Court Rules Committee on 18 January 2013 and allowed by the Minister of Justice on 31 January 2013.

5. Court Rules Forward Work Programme

The Committee considered details of the Courts Rules to be progressed before the end of June 2013.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information in relation to a proposed amendment to Order 109 Rule 5 of the Rules of the Court of Judicature.

6. Legal Aid Reform - Draft consultation document on Alternative Methods of Funding Money Damages Claims

The Committee considered a draft consultation paper provided by the Department of Justice on Alternative Methods of Funding Money Damages Claims and noted that the Legal Services Commission would be undertaking the consultation exercise.

Agreed: The Committee agreed it was content for the consultation to take place and that the Legal Services Commission should brief the Committee on the results of the consultation and the likely preferred option for funding money damages claims before any detailed development of an option takes place.

7. Attorney General’s Guidance for Criminal Justice Organisations in Northern Ireland on Human Rights Standards relevant to the Protection of the Right to Life

The Committee noted the final version of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland’s guidance for Criminal Justice Organisations in Northern Ireland on Human Rights Standards relevant to the Protection of the Right to Life and his intention to lay the guidance in the Assembly at the earliest possible opportunity.

8. Further Consultation on the Statutory Discount Rate

The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice indicating that the Minister of Justice had agreed to join a further UK-wide consultation to review the present legal basis for the setting of the Statutory Discount Rate and providing a copy of the draft consultation document and impact assessment.

2.25 p.m. Mr Stewart Dickson joined the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice highlighting concerns regarding the length of time it is taking to complete the review of how the discount rate should be set and requesting the likely timescale for an outcome on this matter.

9. Briefing on the assessment and testing of new search technology in HM Prison Magilligan and HM Young Offenders Centre, Hydebank Wood

Sue McAllister, Director General, and Stephen Davis, Governor II Head of Standards Audit Unit, Northern Ireland Prison Service joined the meeting at 2.27 p.m.

2.29 p.m. Mr Jim Wells left the meeting.

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

The Prison Service officials briefed the Committee on the assessment of the pilot project of new search technology in HM Prison Magilligan and HM Young Offenders Centre, Hydebank Wood.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including: the findings of the pilot testing of the millimetre wave body scanners; prisoner reaction to, and co-operation with, the new processes; the reasons why some prisoners refused to go through the scanner; problems identified with the millimetre wave body scanners in the prison context and whether the manufacturers/suppliers could adjust the technology for the Prison Service’s purposes; whether the findings of the pilot had been shared with prisoners; whether a reaction from prisoners to the findings of the pilot was anticipated; whether a multi-layered approach to searching was in operation during the pilot; progress towards piloting transmission x-ray technology and the application for a licence to use such a scanner; whether transmission x-ray technology is suitable to be used by women and young people; the use of search technology in prisons in other jurisdictions; lessons learnt from the management of the first pilot; and how ‘full-body searching’ is currently carried out in Northern Ireland Prisons.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

During the briefing the officials indicated that a number of questions could not be fully answered in public session due to security and commercial in confidence reasons.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to go into closed session to hear this information.

The meeting moved into closed session at 3.15 p.m. 

The Prison Service officials answered further questions from Members on the assessment and testing of new search technology in HM Prison Magilligan and HM Young Offenders Centre, Hydebank Wood.

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

10. Advice on possible options to legislate to prevent private clinics carrying out abortive procedures in Northern Ireland and restrict such procedures to National Health Service facilities

Damien Martin, Clerk Assistant, and Hugh Widdis, Director of Legal and Governance Services, joined the meeting at 3.44 p.m.

The Committee noted correspondence on behalf of Marie Stopes International providing clarification on the oral evidence given on 10 January 2013 in relation to the supply and administration of drugs.

Mr Martin and Mr Widdis provided advice to the Committee on possible options to legislate to prevent private clinics carrying out abortive procedures in Northern Ireland and restrict such procedures to National Health Service facilities and answered Members’ questions.

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

The Chairman thanked Mr Widdis and Mr Martin for the advice and Mr Widdis left the meeting.

11. Oral Evidence Session with the Attorney General for Northern Ireland on issues arising from the oral evidence session with representatives from Marie Stopes International

The Attorney General for Northern Ireland, Mr John Larkin QC, Maura McCallion, Division Head, Office of the Attorney General and Laura Thompson, Principal Legal Officer, Office of the Attorney General joined the meeting at 4.20 p.m.

The Attorney General briefed the Committee on issues arising from the oral evidence session with representatives from Marie Stopes International and possible legislative options within the competence of the NI Assembly.

A detailed question and answer session took place.

4.55 p.m. Mr Alex Easton left the meeting.

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

5.05 p.m. Mr Tom Elliott left the meeting.

5.24 p.m. Mr Alban Maginness left the meeting.

The Chairman thanked the Attorney General for the briefing.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that Members would reflect on the options and issues that had been discussed in relation to the Marie Stopes private clinic in Belfast.

The meeting was suspended at 5.37 p.m.

The meeting resumed at 5.49 p.m. in public session.

Present:

Mr Paul Givan MLA (Chairman)

Mr Raymond McCartney MLA (Deputy Chairman)

Mr Seán Lynch MLA

Mr Alban Maginness MLA

Ms Rosaleen McCorley MLA

Mr Jim Wells MLA

12. Criminal Justice Bill: Oral Evidence Session with the Attorney General for Northern Ireland on the reintroduction of a ‘Clause 34’ duty

The Attorney General for Northern Ireland, Mr John Larkin QC, Maura McCallion, Division Head, Office of the Attorney General and Laura Thompson, Principal Legal Officer, Office of the Attorney General joined the meeting at 5.50 p.m.

The Attorney General for Northern Ireland outlined his views on the proposed Clause 34 style provision that would 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 answered questions on issues including: whether such a clause is necessary; whether the proposed clause would place an unnecessary administrative burden upon public bodies; whether the proposed clause sufficiently protects public bodies against potentially spurious litigation; and options for amending the clause.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would return to this matter at its next meeting.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked the Attorney General for Northern Ireland and his officials for their attendance and they left the meeting.

13. Correspondence

i. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice in relation to the justice issues raised in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office paper on the Review of the Balance of Competencies between the United Kingdom and the European Union referred by the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

ii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing further information on how Section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 operates generally and how the scheme operated in the case of a Mr McCourt.

iii. The Committee noted a copy of AccessNI’s response to the Committee for Culture Arts and Leisure on it’s investigation into gaps in child protection and safeguarding across the Culture, Arts and Leisure Remit.

iv. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to issues raised by the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure following a NSPCC briefing on safeguarding in sport and issues relating to abuse of trust.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure for information.

v. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice detailing the schedule for the publication of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service Judicial Statistics quarterly statistical bulletins for the period October to December 2012.

vi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing the National Statistics publication, ‘Experience of Crime: Findings from the 2011/12 Northern Ireland Crime.

vii.  The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing further information requested by the Committee during the oral briefing on the Savings Delivery Plans on 10 January 2013.

The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice  providing further information requested by the Committee during the oral briefing on the January 2013 Monitoring Round and Civil Legal Aid Expenditure Assessment on 13 December 2012.

ix. The Committee noted a Summary Report from the Prison Reform Oversight Group following its meeting on 19 December 2012.

x. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Minister of Justice has asked officials to develop a Human Trafficking Annual Action Plan for Northern Ireland with a plan for 2013/14 to be published early in the new financial year.

xi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Minister of Justice has revoked a requisition authorisation he had previously issued under Section 29 of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 in relation to a small section of land within the Forthriver Business Park, Springfield Road, Belfast.

xii. The Committee noted an invitation from the Department of Justice to attend the opening of Quoile House at HM Prison Maghaberry on Wednesday 20 February 2012.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that Members would advise the Committee Clerk if they wished to attend this event.

xiii. The Committee noted a response from the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Policing Board regarding the Committee’s request that the terms of the procurement tender for the construction of the NI Police, Fire and Prison Service training college at Desertcreat be brought to the attention of the Board.

xiv The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing departmental public expenditure and forecast outturns for December 2012.

xv. The Committee noted a response from the Chief Executive of the NI Judicial Appointments Commission providing, at the Committee’s request, a copy of the NIJAC report entitled “Business Case for an additional County Court Judge”

xvi. The Committee noted a response from the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board to the Committee’s correspondence on car crime and personal injury claims by PSNI Officers and welcomed the fact that the issue has been referred to the Policing Board Corporate Policy, Planning and Performance Committee.

xvii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister providing a copy of the Executive’s proposed European Priorities 2013 – 14.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to refer the Executive’s draft European Priorities to the Department of Justice for its comments and views in relation to justice issues.

xviii. The Committee noted correspondence from a Mr McIntyre providing a copy of his letter to the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board regarding language used by the PSNI.

xix. The Committee noted the Criminal Justice Inspection Report on the Use of Early Guilty Pleas by the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland.

xx. The Committee noted an invitation from the Northern Ireland Assembly Legislative Strengthening Trust to the official launch of ‘Politics Plus’ on Wednesday 20 February 2013 in Parliament Buildings.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that Members would advise the Committee Clerk if they wished to attend this launch.

14.  Chairman’s Business

 i. The Chairman drew the attention of the Committee to correspondence he had received from the Chairman of Lisburn Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) regarding non-attendance of Members at meetings of the PCSP, the commitment required by the Chairman and Vice Chairman and the need to review the limitation on the meeting allowance expense that can be claimed.

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

ii. The Chairman reminded Members that the Department of Justice is undertaking a public consultation on proposals to reform the administration and structure of Tribunals in Northern Ireland and and proposed that a research paper should be commissioned to assist the Committee’s scrutiny of this issue.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to commission a research paper on the structure of Tribunal systems in other jurisdictions and the role of the judiciary and Ministers in the appointment system for Tribunal Members.

15.  Any Other Business

A Member drew the attention of the Committee to a recent radio broadcast in which a NI County Court Judge spoke publicly on the issue of offenders with alcohol/drug addiction problems and the treatment programmes available for such addictions.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the participation of the Judge on the radio programme was very useful and worthwhile and he should be commended for his engagement with the media. The Committee also agreed that a suitable opportunity for Members to hear from the Judge should be explored.

16.  Date and time of next meeting 

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 21 February 2013 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

6.02 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
21 February 2013

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