Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 15 December 2011

Venue: Northern Bank Studio, Millennium Forum

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

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 8 December 2011

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 8 December 2011.

3. Matters Arising

The Committee noted information provided by the Minister of Justice on the membership of and terms of reference for the Oversight Committee to oversee the reform programme for the Northern Ireland Prison Service which issued to Members on 13 December 2011.

4. December Monitoring Round

The Committee noted information from the Department of Justice on the December Monitoring Round and the main pressures and easements.  Further information requested by the Committee on the easements reported at the October Monitoring Round was also noted.  The Chairman advised Members that Departmental officials were due to attend the Committee meeting on 12 January to provide an update on the Savings Delivery Plans and there would be an opportunity to seek further information or clarification of the Monitoring Round at that time.

5. Correspondence

i. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding the draft Programme for Government and Investment Strategy.

ii. The Committee considered the National Statistics Bulletin 3/2011 ‘Experience of Crime: Findings from the 2010/2011 Northern Ireland Crime Survey’.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information on a range of issues.

iii. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to its request for further information on the draft Disability Action Plan.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the correspondence and the timing of an oral briefing at the meeting scheduled for 12 January 2012.

iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding a correction to the evidence provided by the Minister and departmental officials in relation to the McCusker report on allegations regarding the role of the Department of Justice in respect of the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

v. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to its request for sight of legal advice provided to the Department in formulating a new policy for a review mechanism for sex offenders subject to indefinite notification under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. 

vi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding proposals to issue a determination to close PSNI Severance Schemes.

vii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to concerns raised by the Committee in relation to proposals for a Sentencing Guidelines Mechanism in Northern Ireland.

viii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing further information on the introduction of Corporate Manslaughter legislation.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek clarification regarding the practical application of the legislation by the Public Prosecution Service.

ix. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to its request for information on the cost of implementing the Department’s Equality Scheme and Action Plan.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to seek further clarification regarding the implementation costs.

6. Any Other Business

None.

7. Inquiry into the Criminal Justice Services available to Victims and Witnesses of Crime – oral evidence event

The Chairman welcomed the witnesses to the meeting and outlined the structure of the evidence session.

The Chairman invited the witnesses to outline the key issues impacting on the experiences of victims and witnesses and gaps in the current service provided.

Ms Susan Reid, Victim Support NI, Mrs Pam Surplis, Support after Murder and Manslaughter NI (SAMM NI), Mr Colin Reid, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), Mr Patrick Yu, NI Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM), Mr Hugh Campbell, University of Ulster, and Ms Orla Conway, Women’s Aid Federation NI outlined the key issues impacting on the experiences of victims and witnesses and gaps in the current service provided and answered questions from Members.

The Chairman invited the witnesses to identify the priorities and actions required to improve the services provided to victims and witnesses.

Provision of and Communication of Timely and Appropriate Information

Ms Susan Reid, Victim Support NI, Mrs Pam Surplis, SAMM NI, Mr Hugh Campbell, University of Ulster, Ms Orla Conway and Ms Marie Brown, Women’s Aid Federation NI, and Dr Lisa Bunting, NSPCC outlined the key communication issues and priorities that need to be addressed to improve the services provided to victims and witnesses of crime.

Provision of Additional Support and Assistance

Dr Lisa Bunting, NSPCC, Ms Jolena Flett and Mr Patrick Yu, NICEM, Ms Susan Reid, Victim Support NI, Ms Marie Brown, Women’s Aid Federation NI, and Hugh Campbell, University of Ulster, outlined the types of additional support and assistance required to improve the services provided to victims and witnesses of crime.

Treatment of Victims and Witnesses – behavioural and attitudinal change

Mrs Pam Surplis, SAMM NI, Ms Marie Brown, Women’s Aid Federation NI, Ms Susan Reid, Victim Support NI and Ms Janique Burden, NSPCC provided examples of the treatment of victims and witnesses of crime within the criminal justice systems and outlined the requirement for behavioural and attitudinal change.

Participation in the process including Victim Impact Statements and Reports

Ms Orla Conway, Women’s Aid Federation NI, Ms Susan Reid, Victim Support NI, Mr Hugh Campbell, University of Ulster, Mr Patrick Yu, NICEM, Dr Lisa Bunting and Ms Janique Burden, NSPCC outlined the importance of the participation of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process and outlined possible changes to improve the experiences of victims and witnesses of crime.

Compensation

Mrs Pam Surplis, SAMM NI, and Ms Susan Reid, Victim Support NI outlined the difficulties many people experience going through the compensation process and the need for changes to the system.

Barriers to reporting crime/attrition rates/ collation of information on the experiences of victims and witnesses of crime

Dr Lisa Bunting and Ms Janique Burden NSPCC, Ms Susan Reid, Victim Support NI, Ms Marie Brown, Women’s Aid Federation NI, and Mr Patrick Yu, NICEM, outlined some of the barriers to reporting crime, and the reasons for current attrition rates, and highlighted concerns in relation to the collation of crime data. 

Delay in the Criminal Justice System

Susan Reid, Victim Support NI, Dr Lisa Bunting and Ms Janique Burden, NSPCC, and Orla Conway, Women’s Aid Federation NI outlined some reasons for, and the impact of, delay in the criminal justice system and the need to address this key issue.

Other Priorities

Dr Lisa Bunting, NSPCC, Mrs Pam Surplis, SAMM NI, Ms Susan Reid, Victim Support NI, Ms Marie Borwn and Ms Orla Conway, Women’s Aid Federation NI responded to questions from Members on issues including: the role of the Public Prosecutor, research on the experience of young people who have been the victims of crime, the treatment of victims by the criminal justice organisations, delays in therapeutic work as a result of delay in the Criminal Justice System, victims’ lack of understanding of sentencing options, care pathways for individuals within the Criminal Justice System, Witness Care Units, oral evidence in committal hearings, the Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme, and awareness of special measures provisions.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked the representatives for their evidence.

8. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 12 January 2012 at 2.00 p.m in Room 30 Parliament Buildings.

5.07 pm. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
12 January 2012

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