Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 17 May 2012

Venue: The Senate Chamber

The meeting commenced at 2.04 p.m. in open session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 10 May 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 10 May 2012.

3. Matters Arising

The Committee noted an outline programme for the visit and meeting to be held in Law Society House on 24 May 2012.

4. Briefing on the Retention of Human Tissue Samples

Peter May, Director, Safer Communities Division, Department of Justice, Assistance Chief Constable George Hamilton, PSNI, and Jacqui Durkin, Head of Business Operations, NI Courts and Tribunals Service, joined the meeting at 2.07 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on the findings of the Police Human Tissue Audit 2010-2012, a report on which is due to be published on 21 May 2012.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering a range of issues including the number of tissue samples retained and the reasons for retention; the number of families involved; the process for notifying families whether in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland or further afield and the timing of the provision of information; the reason for the original Audit and the process for publication of the Audit Report; the legislative background to the retention of human tissue samples; the timeframe for the retention of the samples; the extent of the communication between the PSNI and the State Pathologist’s Office; whether there will be a review of how information is handled in light of the leaked report; the likelihood that tissue samples were retained and destroyed without the knowledge of families; where the samples are stored; why the matter was not considered and addressed in 2006 when the legislation changed; what support measures are being put in place for families when notified; the need for contact between other UK police forces if other forces have retained tissue samples from individuals from Northern Ireland; whether there is a need for an independent review of the handling of this matter; and the number of tissue samples retained by the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

The Committee noted that an oral Ministerial Statement on the issue is due on Monday 21 May 2012.

5. Briefing on Proposed Revisions to Police and Criminal Evidence (NI) Order 1989 (PACE) Codes of Practice C, E, F and H

David Hughes, Head of Policing Policy and Strategy Division, Department of Justice, Coleen Doak, Police Powers and Custody Branch, Department of Justice, Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum, PSNI, and Yvonne Cooke, Head of Healthcare, Custody and Reducing Offending, PSNI, joined the meeting at 3.39 p.m.

The officials briefly outlined the results of the consultation process and the proposed revisions to PACE Codes C, E, F and H and answered questions on a number of issues including the low response rate to the consultation exercise; what engagement there had been with the Policing Board on the matter; whether there is a requirement to take the draft Codes of Practice to the Executive for consideration; the fact that the revisions to the Codes are consequential amendments to procedures to reflect policy changes made at Westminster; and whether there is any on-going relevant judicial review.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the proposed revisions to PACE Codes C, E, F and H further at the meeting on 24 May 2012.

6. EU Framework Decision on Mutual Recognition of Judgments and Probation Decisions – Summary of Responses and Way Forward

The Committee considered the results of a consultation on proposals to deliver requirements under the Framework Decision: “Mutual Recognition of Probation Measures, Licence Supervision and Alternative Sanctions across Member States of the European Union” and the Minister of Justice’s proposal to legislate to permit the mutual recognition of judgements and probation decisions.

4.04 p.m. Mr McCartney left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it is content with the Minister’s intention to legislate on this matter in a forthcoming Justice Bill.

7. Crime, Courts and Communications Bill – Legislative Consent Motion

The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice outlining his intention to use a Legislative Consent Motion for the Northern Ireland aspects of the Crime, Courts and Communications Bill. The Committee also noted that the Minister required the approval of the Executive for this course of action.

8. SL1 – Police and Criminal Evidence (1989 Order) (Codes of Practice) (Temporary Modification to Code A) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee considered a proposal by the Department of Justice for a Statutory Rule to make a further modification Order to extend the temporary revisions to Police and Criminal Evidence Order Code of Practice A (exercise by police officers of statutory powers of stop and search) to facilitate the electronic recording of a search of a person or vehicle by a police officer.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it is content with the proposal for the Statutory Rule.

9. SR 2012/178 – Police Service of Northern Ireland (Amendment) Regulations 2012

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2012/178 which amends Police Regulations to change the list of public/bank holidays available to police officers in the PSNI to provide that the “last Monday in May” (28 May) will be replaced as a bank holiday by 4 June with an additional holiday on 5 June for this year only to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. 

Agreed: The Committee considered Statutory Rule 2012/178 – Police Service of Northern Ireland (Amendment) Regulations 2012 and has no objection to the Rule.

10. Tackling Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Action Plan 2012 – 2013

The Committee considered information provided by the Department of Justice on how the issues of domestic and sexual violence and abuse have been addressed and how they will now be taken forward through a proposed joint “Tackling Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse” Action Plan 2012-13 and  responses from the Department of Justice and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to concerns raised by the Area Manager of Women’s Aid ABCL&N about the 2010 – 2012 Action Plan on Domestic Violence, the development of the 2012 -13 Action Plan and the MARAC Information Sharing Agreement.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to send a copy of the responses provided by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health to the Area Manager of Women’s Aid ABCL&N.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek the views of the Women’s Aid Federation on the proposed “Tackling Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse” Action Plan 2012-13.

11. Correspondence

i. The Committee considered a response from the Minister of Justice to its request for clarification of the timescale for provision of information on his proposed way forward following the Review of Community Sentences.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Justice indicating that it wishes to receive the information on his proposed way forward in good time to give consideration to it before any announcement is made.

4.15 p.m. Mr McCartney rejoined the meeting.

ii. The Committee considered a response from the Director of Public Prosecutions to its request for information on how the PPS manages the process for deciding whether to appeal a sentence on the grounds of leniency and how this is communicated to the victim/victim’s family.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Minister of Justice for his views on increasing the timescale within which an application must be made to the Court regarding an unduly lenient sentence to six weeks.

iii. The Committee considered a response from the PSNI to the Committee’s request regarding concerns raised by an individual in relation to a proposal by the management to reduce the number of armed airport police at Belfast International Airport (BIA) and any likely implications for the PSNI. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the individual.

iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice to its request for an update on the number of people committed to prison for non-payment of fines in each of the last six months for which figures are available.

v. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Social Development regarding the Social Security Advisory Committee’s (SSAC) review of passport benefits.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting information on the likely impact of the introduction of Universal Credit on Criminal and Civil legal aid and financial assistance with court fees and prison visits.

vi. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding an informal consultation by the Department of Finance and Personnel on the strategic direction for the use of any future EU Funding for which Northern Ireland might qualify in 2014-2020.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting its views on any justice related issues relevant to future EU Funding 2014-20.

vii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding the Review of 2013-14 and 2014-15 Budget Allocations.

viii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety providing a briefing paper by Business in the Community and requesting that it be forwarded to the Minister of Justice.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the briefing paper to the Minister of Justice. 

ix. The Committee noted further correspondence from an individual providing a copy of a response he received from the Minister of Justice regarding his complaint of maladministration against the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

x. The Committee considered an invitation from Senior Editors of local media organisations to a seminar on “Bringing Open Justice to a New Level” on Thursday 14 June 2012.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Chairman and Deputy Chairman would attend the event on behalf of the Committee and any other Member wishing to attend the event should advise the Clerk who will make the necessary arrangements. 

xi. The Committee noted correspondence from the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission regarding the appointment of Mr Paul Richard Maguire QC as a High Court Judge for Northern Ireland.

xii. The Committee noted information on Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) Statistical Bulletins to be published in May 2011.

xiii. The Committee considered correspondence from a Mr Crawford requesting a meeting with the Committee for Justice to discuss a proposal to provide education, training and employment opportunities for young offenders.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that an informal meeting should be arranged with Mr Crawford to discuss the proposal.

xiv. The Committee noted an invitation to an Ex-Prisoners Working Group Awareness Raising Event on Wednesday 23 May 2012 in Parliament Buildings.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that any Member wishing to attend the event should advise the Clerk who will make the necessary arrangements.

xv. The Committee noted an invitation from Mindwise to the launch of its Linked In project on Thursday 31 May 2012.

Agreed: The Committee noted that the Chairman would attend the event and agreed that any other Member wishing to attend should advise the Clerk who will make the necessary arrangements.

xvi. The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice advising of the suspension of the Governor of Hydebank Wood Prison and Young Offenders Centre, as a precautionary measure, pending an external investigation as a result of an Interim Report completed by the Prisoner Ombudsman in relation to information received as part of an on-going investigation into a death in custody at Hydebank Wood.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it may wish to consider this issue further when more information is available.

xvii. The Committee noted correspondence from NIACRO regarding the postponement of the final event in the 2011-12 Justice Series, which was due to take place on 22 May 2012.

xviii. The Committee noted the Criminal Justice Inspection report of an Inspection of the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland's giving of reasons for its decisions.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that Members should raise this matter at the next meeting if they considered that an oral briefing on the report would be useful.

12. Chairman’s Business

The Chairman advised Members that he had received an invitation from the Committee for the Environment to a Northern Ireland Climate Change Bill Stakeholder Event which he hoped to attend if available.

13. Any other business

The Committee noted that the Attorney General for Northern Ireland did not now intend to proceed with the prosecution against former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain and Biteback Publishing for contempt of court for criticising a Judge. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Attorney General for Northern Ireland requesting that he attend a Committee meeting to discuss his letter on this matter and in particular issues around criticism of judges or judicial decisions and what constitutes contempt of court.

14. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 24 May 2012 at 2.00 p.m. in Law Society House, Belfast.

4.22 p.m. the meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
24 May 2012

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