Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 18 October 2012

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

Agreed: The Committee agreed to commence the meeting in closed session. 

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

1. Issues relating to the Marie Stopes private clinic in Belfast

Members discussed a number of procedural issues arising from correspondence received in relation to the Marie Stopes private clinic that had opened in Belfast.

The meeting moved to public session at 2.34pm.

2. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

3. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 11 October 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 11 October 2012

4. Chairman’s Business     

AgreedThe Committee agreed to bring forward agenda item 12, Chairman’s Business.

i Members considered correspondence from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, and from Donaghy Carey Solicitors on behalf of Precious Life in relation to the opening of the Marie Stopes private clinic in Belfast.

Agreed:  Given that the opening of the Marie Stopes private clinic is a matter of public interest and concern, the Committee agreed to scrutinise how the clinic will comply with the criminal law relating to abortion in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite representatives from the Marie Stopes private clinic to attend a meeting to outline to the Committee how it intends to comply with the criminal law in Northern Ireland and noted that representatives of the clinic had publically stated that they would be willing to engage with the Committee.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that Assembly officials and Legal Advisers should consider how the Committee could best be supported for this meeting and engage with the Attorney General’s Office on how he could assist in relation to this.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that, without prejudice to the outcome of the initial meeting with representatives of the Marie Stopes clinic, preparatory work should be undertaken by Assembly officials and Legal Advisers should the Committee decide to undertake an inquiry on this matter including engagement with the Attorney General’s office on how he could assist in relation to this.

ii The Chairman informed Members that both he and the deputy Chairman had met with the Chairman, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive of the Policing Board to discuss policing issues of mutual interest including early intervention, speeding up the justice process and the proposed draft Protocol on the Policing Architecture.  The Chairman advised the Committee that there was agreement that there was no necessity for a voluntary protocol given that the statutory responsibility of both the Committee and the Policing Board was clear and any issues that might arise could be better dealt with through dialogue with a protocol acting as a barrier to proper engagement.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Justice advising him of the position and to send a copy of the correspondence to the Chairman of the Policing Board.

Members noted that the Clerk would liaise with the Chief Executive of the Policing Board to identify areas on which it would be useful to co-operate and that a briefing on the work of the Policing Board would be scheduled next year.

iii  The Chairman reminded Members that both he and the Deputy Chairman had agreed to sponsor the launch of the 2011/12 Annual Report on the Public Protection Arrangements in Northern Ireland on behalf of the Committee at the request of the multi-agency Strategic Management Board. The launch would take place on Tuesday 23 October at 12.30 p.m. in Parliament Buildings and all Members were invited to attend.

5. Matters Arising

i Members noted an updated Forward Work Programme for October to December 2012.

ii Members noted that NIACRO had confirmed that all the relevant issues in relation to the DNA/Fingerprint retention clauses in the Criminal Justice Bill had been fully covered by previous witnesses and it had nothing further to add except its support for those positions already outlined therefore an oral evidence session was not required.

6. Criminal Justice Bill: Oral evidence session on the Criminal Justice Bill 

Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton, Chief Superintendent Mark Hamilton, and Chief Superintendent Ivan Farr, Head of Scientific Support, PSNI, joined the meeting at 2.50 p.m.

The representatives outlined the key issues in the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s submission on the clauses and schedules in the Criminal Justice Bill.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: who initiates the process to end notification requirements for sex offenders for acts that are no longer offences; how a failure to notify the police after 3 days once a sex offender has stayed for a qualifying period would be identified and enforced; the PSNI’s views on the non-prosecution of victims of human trafficking; whether provision for the protection of victims of human trafficking during the pre-trial and court proceedings should be included in the legislation; whether the inclusion of a minimum custodial sentence for human trafficking offences in the legislation would act as an effective deterrent; whether the changes to the rules governing DNA retention would hamper the PSNI in its work; whether the retention of DNA in respect of young people has resulted in stigmatisation or trauma for those concerned; the retention of DNA for less serious crimes and the use of discretion by the PSNI; and, the safeguards that are in place in relation to the retention of DNA.

3.27 p.m. William Humphrey left the meeting.

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

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

7. New Victims and Witnesses 5-year Strategy - draft strategy for public consultation 

Maura Campbell, Deputy Director, Veronica Holland and Maurice Campbell, Criminal Justice Development Division, Department of Justice joined the meeting at 3.36 p.m.

3.36 p.m. Patsy McGlone left the meeting.

The departmental officials outlined the new draft Victims and Witnesses 5-year Strategy and the associated consultation paper.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including: the rationale for introducing a victims charter before the introduction of a witness charter; how the strategy intends to deals with victims who are also witnesses; the implementaion of Witness Care Units; the practical implications of improving victim and witness facilities in Court premises; and, the need for an incremental approach to allow relevant organisations to meet their commitments.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation paper and draft strategy to be published and it would give further consideration to the issues once the consultation had been completed.

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

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

8. Draft consultation paper on proposals for Statutory Case Management

The Committee considered a draft consultation paper on proposals for a Statutory Case Management system.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the draft consultation paper to issue.

9. SL1 – The International Recovery of Maintenance (Hague Convention 2007) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 

The Committee considered a proposal to make a Statutory Rule under powers conferred by the European Communities Act 1972.  The Statutory Rule would make the technical amendments required to Northern Ireland law to support the operation of the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and other forms of Family Maintenance.  

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

10. Consultation on proposals to extend the use of Live Links in Court – summary of responses and way forward 

The Committee considered a summary of the consultation responses and the Department’s proposed way forward in relation to extending the use of Live Links in Court.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for provision to be made in the Faster, Fairer Justice Bill for the proposed expanded use of live links in criminal and related proceedings.

11.  Quarterly summary report of the Prison Service Reform Oversight Group

The Committee considered a summary report from the Prison Reform Oversight Group following its third meeting on 19 September 2012.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to raise a number of issues in relation to the new recruitment programme, the exit scheme and the availability of illicit and prescription drugs when Northern Ireland Prison Service officials attend the meeting on 25 October to provide an up-date on progress with delivery of the reform programme.

12.  Draft End of Session Report

The Committee considered a draft End of Session Report which covered the work and activities of the Committee during the period 12 May 2011 to 31 August 2012.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the End of Session Report as drafted and that it be published on the Assembly website.

13.  Correspondence

i The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a paper comparing the DNA/fingerprint retention arrangements proposed for Northern Ireland with those in place in Scotland, England and Wales.

ii The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Minister of Justice had agreed to Northern Ireland’s inclusion in a Designation Order under the European Communities Act 1972 in relation to the EU Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims which would allow any Northern Ireland Department to put in place secondary legislation required to implement any of the provisions of the EU Directive.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the correspondence to the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety as a number of articles in the Directive relate to matters for which the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has responsibility.

iii The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice providing a response to the Committee’s request for information on the action the Department of Justice intends to take to modernise the area of family justice and the family courts in Northern Ireland and the likely timescales.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the correspondence to Mr Morris who raised the issue.

iv The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister’s legislative proposals in relation to combining the functions of the Assembly Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints into a single Public Services Ombudsman.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward a copy of the correspondence to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

v  The Committee noted a response from the Bar Council on the reductions applied to Very High Cost Cases by the Taxing Master.

vi  The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing a copy of correspondence from the Minister of Finance and Personnel on the NICS equal pay settlement relating to PSNI staff and the availability of the funding package post March 2013.

vii  The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing information on the accuracy of departmental financial forecasting.

viii The Committee noted a copy of correspondence from a Mr McMaster to the Lay Observer for Northern Ireland and others.

14.  Any other business

The Committee considered a draft press release highlighting that it had agreed to invite representatives of the Marie Stopes private clinic in Belfast to a meeting to outline how it would comply with the criminal law in relation to abortion in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the draft press release subject to one amendment.

15.  Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 25 October 2012 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

4.05 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
25 October 2012

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