Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 15 November 2012

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 1.41 p.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

None.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 8 November 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 8 November 2012.

The Committee agreed to bring forward agenda item 4

3. Deliberations on the clause and schedules of the Criminal Justice Bill relating to the retention of Fingerprints, DNA Profiles etc

Ian Kerr and Gary Dodds, Police Powers and Custody Branch, Department of Justice, joined the meeting at 1.45p.m.

1.44p.m. Jim Wells joined the meeting.

1.45p.m. Seán Lynch joined the meeting.

1.50p.m. Patsy McGlone joined the meeting.

2.03p.m. Stewart Dickson joined the meeting.

2.08p.m. Alban Maginness joined the meeting.

2.10p.m. William Humphrey joined the meeting.

The Committee commenced consideration of the evidence received in relation to clause 7 and schedules 2 and 3 of the Criminal Justice Bill relating to the retention of fingerprints, DNA profiles etc. and sought clarification/further information on a range of issues and proposed amendments from the departmental officials. A number of Articles were identified as requiring further discussion.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to give further consideration to the proposed amendment to Article 63C, regarding the retention of material until the conclusion of an investigation or any associated proceedings, when the Department provided the wording of the amendment.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to give further consideration to the proposed amendment to Article 63D, which would place the prescribed circumstances on the face of the Bill, when the Department provided the wording of the amendment.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to give further consideration to a proposed amendment to introduce provision regarding limited retention in cases where a penalty notice has been issued under section 60 of the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 when the Department provided the wording of the amendment.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to give further consideration to a proposed amendment to bring completion of a diversionary youth conference within the retention framework on the same basis as a caution when the Department provided the wording of the amendment.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked the officials for their attendance and they left the meeting.

4. Matters arising

The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice which indicated that he was not minded to increase the timescale within which an application to the Court of Appeal must be made for a sentence that is unduly lenient to six weeks but that the matter would be kept under review and would be considered further as part of the work the Department is undertaking in relation to the Future Governance of the Public Prosecution Service.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request details of when the results of the consultation on the Review of the Future Governance of the Public Prosecution Service and the proposals for the way forward would be available for consideration.

The Committee agreed to deal with agenda item 5 later in the meeting.

5. SL1s: The County Courts (Financial Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012 and the County Court (Amendment No. 2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012 

The Committee considered further information in relation to the proposed County Courts (Financial Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012 and the County Court (Amendment No. 2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek the views of the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Committee on the capacity of the current judicial complement to manage the anticipated increase in workload as a result of the proposed increase in the civil jurisdiction of the county court.

6. Violent Offender Order Proposal - Policy Development update 

The Committee considered policy proposals for Violent Offender Orders for which the Department intends to include provision in the Faster, Fairer Justice Bill.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule an oral briefing by departmental officials on the policy proposals.

2.28p.m. Alex Easton left the meeting.

7. Northern Ireland Prison Service Corporate Governance – Six monthly update

The Committee noted an update on progress since March 2012 and the way forward for the next six months on actions to improve the corporate governance arrangements in the NI Prison Service.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed that NI Prison Service officials should provide an oral briefing on the next six-monthly update.

8. AccessNI proposals to improve ID checking arrangements

The Committee considered proposals to improve AccessNI identification checking arrangements through the modernisation and rationalisation of the current list of ID documentation used by registered and umbrella bodies that countersign applications for Standard and Enhanced checks to establish the identity of individuals.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposed changes to the AccessNI identification checking arrangements.

9. Results of a consultation on the future regulation of the Private Security Industry in Northern Ireland

The Committee noted the written summary of the responses to the Department of Justice consultation on the future regulation of the private security industry.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the oral briefing on the results of the Department of Justice consultation should be rescheduled when the results of a UK-wide consultation on proposals for a new regulatory regime are available.

10. Correspondence

i  The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice on how its strategies, policies and programmes address social deprivation and poverty.

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

ii  The Committee noted a response from the Minister of Justice indicating that he intended to take forward a consultation regarding repealing the common law offence of scandalising the court in the New Year, subject to other competing priorities.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Clerk of the Committee should explore with the Bill Clerk the possibility of addressing this matter in the Criminal Justice Bill.

iii The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the setting of interim civil legal aid remuneration fees for the new hearings created by the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice to request further information on how the level of the interim fees had been arrived at. 

iv The Committee noted information 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 and the likelihood of the UK opting out of the Third Pillar Measures.

v The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Education regarding school transport and Access NI checks.

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

vi The Committee considered further correspondence from a Mr Ringland regarding his complaint against Lisburn Technical College in relation to the provision of basic education training.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward Mr Ringland’s further correspondence to the Committee for Employment and Learning and the Department of Justice for consideration in conjunction with the earlier correspondence.

viii  The Committee considered correspondence from David McNarry MLA in relation to a consultation being undertaken by the Law Commissions of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland entitled ‘Regulation of Health Care Professionals’.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice and the NI Law Commission for a response on the issues raised by Mr McNarry in relation to social workers in Northern Ireland.

ix  The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising of the intention of the Minister of Justice to make an oral statement to the Assembly on Monday 26 November on the NI Prison Outline Estate Strategy.

x  The Committee considered a response from the PSNI regarding guidance on the display of firearms in Firearms Dealers’ premises and the consultation that had taken place with Firearms Dealers in relation to the guidance.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the response to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation who had raised the issue.

xi The Committee considered correspondence from the Prison Officers Association Prison Escorting and Court Custody Service Group regarding security concerns.

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

11.  Chairman’s Business

The Chairman advised Members that a request had been received from the Solas Trust for an informal meeting with the Committee regarding its proposed long-term after care project for women rescued out of human trafficking.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Chairman, Deputy Chairman and any other available Members should meet informally with the Solas Trust. 

12.  Any Other Business

None.

13. UK Border Agency Policies and Practices in Northern Ireland

Phil Taylor, Regional Director of the UK Border Agency, joined the meeting at 2.52 p.m.

Mr Taylor outlined the UK Border Agency’s policies and practices in Northern Ireland.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the number of illegal immigrants and the main countries of origin; the difficulties caused by the differences in Irish and UK visa requirements; how immigration offenders exploit the Common Travel Area; how biometric information is used in the immigration application process; the reciprocal agreements that exist between Northern Ireland and neighbouring jurisdictions; the sharing of intelligence with other law enforcement partners; and the sevices provided at Larne House short-term holding centre.

The Chairman thanked Mr Taylor for the briefing and he left the meeting.

3.30p.m. The meeting was suspended.

3.35p.m. The meeting resumed.

14.  Update on engagement with the Attorney General’s office and advice on support for the initial meeting with the Marie Stopes Clinic and a possible Inquiry 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to move into closed session.

3.35p.m. The meeting moved into closed session.

Mr Jim Wells declared an interest as Vice Chairperson of the Assembly All Party Pro-Life Group.

Mr Alban Maginness declared an interest as a Member of the Assembly All Party Pro-Life Group.

Mr Stewart Dickson declared an interest as a Member of the Assembly All Party Group on Sexual Health.

Hugh Widdis, Assembly Director of Legal and Governance Services joined the meeting at 3.35 p.m. Mr Widdis outlined the engagement that had taken place with officials from the Office of the Attorney General and his legal advice on a range of matters.

A detailed question and answer session took place covering a wide range of issues.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite the Attorney General for Northern Ireland to give oral evidence in closed session on the criminal law relating to abortions in Northern Ireland, areas that may require further exploration and information/clarification that could usefully be sought.

Agreed: Noting that the Standing Orders of the Assembly are silent on the participation of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland in the proceedings of the Assembly, the Committee agreed to refer the issues raised in the Attorney General’s letter regarding his assistance to the Committee on Procedures for consideration and to highlight the deficit regarding his participation in Assembly proceedings in relation to the human rights guidance for a range of criminal justice organisations that he has a statutory responsibility to produce and lay in the Assembly.

The Chairman thanked Mr Widdis for the update and he left the meeting.

15.  Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 22 November 2012 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

4.47 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
22 November 2012

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