Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 19 April 2012

Venue: Room 30

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

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meetings held on 27 March and 29 March 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meetings held on 27 March and 29 March 2012.

3. Matters Arising

i. The Committee noted a response from the Minister of Justice to issues raised in relation to the Prison Service Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme in which he confirmed that Prison Service staff would be offered the opportunity to ask for their individual position on their grade list and for their associated costs.

ii. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice regarding its request for the legal advice received by the Department in relation to the decision not to preclude officers leaving the Service as a result of the Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme from applying for the post of Custody Officer.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request the attendance of officials to explain the decision not to disclose the legal advice given their agreement to do so at the meeting on 8 March 2012.

iii. The Committee noted an updated forward work programme for April to June 2012.

iv. The Committee noted the arrangements for an informal meeting with an individual in relation to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 legislation.

v. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding temporary senior staff changes in the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

4. Briefing by the Prison Officers’ Association on the Prison Service Early Voluntary Retirement Scheme, the SEE Programme and wider Reform Programme

Mr Finlay Spratt, Chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association, Mr Bryan McMullan, Vice Chairman, and Ms June Robinson, Area Secretary, joined the meeting at 2.08 p.m.

Following a brief introduction by Mr Spratt a detailed question and answer session took place covering a range of issues. These included the need for reform in the NI Prison Service; whether the proposed reforms will deliver the required changes; the handling of the Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme; the impact on Prison Staff and what needs to be done to address the issues; the introduction of the new Target Operating Model; the nature of the negotiations with Prison Service Management; staffing levels and a recent incident when three officers were injured; the role of the POA in the Reform Programme; the ability of the Prison Service to deliver Education and Skills, and Employment programmes; the introduction of electronic alternatives to strip searches and the budget reductions faced by the Prison Service and the impact of staff numbers.

3.15 p.m. Mr Wells left the meeting.

3.16 p.m. Mr Eastwood left the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked the representatives from the Prison Officers’ Association for their attendance and they left the meeting.

5. Briefing  on the development of a draft Protocol on the Policing Architecture

David Hughes, Deputy Director, Policing Policy and Strategy Division, Department of Justice, Edgar Jardine, Interim Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Policing Board, and John McCaughan, Superintendent, PSNI joined the meeting at 3.24 p.m.

The officials briefly outlined the development of a draft Protocol on the Policing Architecture.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including the reasons for the delay in presenting the draft Protocol to the Committee; the need for the Protocol given it is an administrative tool and not legally binding; the content of the Management Statement and Financial Memorandum and what issues, if any, have arisen during the two years since the devolution of policing and justice.

The officials agreed to provide the Committee with a copy of the Management Statement and Financial Memorandum.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to consider the matter further when the Management Statement and Financial Memorandum has been provided.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

6. Proposed Policy Consultation to Extend the Use of Live Video Links in Courts

The Committee considered information provided by the Department of Justice on its plans to consult on proposals to amend and extend the legislation allowing the use of live video links in Courts.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the Department to consult on the proposals as outlined and to consider the matter further once the results of the consultation exercise are available.

7. Draft discussion paper on Sharing Information about Family Proceedings Concerning Children

3.45 p.m. Mr McCartney left the meeting.

The Committee considered a proposal from the Department of Justice to circulate a draft discussion paper to key stakeholders in the family justice system inviting views on specific circumstances in which information about family proceedings relating to children could be shared with people not involved in the proceedings but not the media or general public. The information will assist in the preparation of draft Court Rules on the matter and ensure they are informed by practical experience of the issues.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek further information on the proposals to assist consideration of the matter. 

8. SL1 – Draft Penalty Notices (Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011) (Enforcement of Fines) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee considered a proposal to make a Statutory Rule to prescribe the procedure for the enforcement by a Magistrates’ Court of an unpaid Penalty Notice and noted that the Regulations are procedural in nature and are modelled on the corresponding enforcement regulations for Road Traffic Fixed Penalties.

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

9. SL1 – The Valuation Tribunal (Amendment No.2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee considered a proposal by the Department of Justice for a Statutory Rule to regulate the practice and procedures for appeal proceedings before the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal in relation to building completion notices.

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

10. SR 2012/86 The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee considered Statutory Rule 2012/86 to amend the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008 to improve AccessNI’s operational service.

3.51 p.m. Mr Wells rejoined the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee considered SR 2012/86 The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and had no objection to it.

11. Correspondence

i. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for further information regarding the NI Prison Service Strategic Efficiency and Effectiveness (SEE) Programme.

ii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice providing a copy of the first Quarterly Report on Equality and Diversity within the Prison Service.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting further clarification on inequalities raised in the report and an up-date on what action is being taken to address the issues.

iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice advising that he had approved a Department of Justice Authorisation that authorises the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission to fund legal aid for representation in proceedings before the Care Tribunal for appeals brought by individuals deemed to be unsuitable to work with children or vulnerable adults.

iv. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to its request for the amount of funding being targeted specifically at tackling rural crime by the Community Safety Partnerships.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development.

v. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice to its request for clarification on whether there is any representation from the Department or its agencies/related bodies on the Cross Departmental Working Group on wild fires.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Committee for the Environment.

vi. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice providing information in relation to the case of R v Haddock and Others and the panel set up as part of the PSNI response to Operation Ballast.

vii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to its request for further information on the causes of the administrative errors by the NI Court Service which led to the early release of a prisoner from HM Prison Maghaberry. 

viii. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for an update on the proposed consultation on Firearms (Amendments) Regulations.

ix. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding the cessation of the service provided by the Housing Rights Service in relation to housing repossession and ejectment proceedings and the provision of funding for an interim scheme.

x. The Committee noted the 2012 Prison Service Pay Review Body- Eighth Report on Northern Ireland.

xi. The Committee noted the Spring 2012 edition of the Digest of Information on the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice System.

xii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Children’s Law Centre providing a copy of a letter from the Council of Europe, Commissioner of Human Rights to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Mr Kenneth Clarke, regarding the system of juvenile justice in the UK and raising concerns about youth justice and policing in Northern Ireland. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice for a response on the issues raised and to request information on the timescale for the briefing on the results of the consultation on the Youth Justice Review.

xiii. The Committee noted the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland follow-up report on Northern Ireland Prison Service Mistaken Prisoner Releases.

xiv. The Committee considered correspondence from the Bar Council to the Department of Justice raising concerns regarding the proposed Statutory Rule governing the assignment of two counsel.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a response from the Department of Justice on the issues raised before the meeting on 26 April 2012 when the Committee is due to consider the Statutory Rule.

xv. The Committee noted correspondence from the PSNI to the Committee for the Environment regarding liaison between the PSNI and the NI Fire and Rescue Service.

xvi. The Committee noted a copy of the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland follow-up report “Not a Marginal Issue: Mental health and the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland”.

xvii. The Committee noted correspondence from a Mr Hammond regarding delays in NICS pay awards to PSNI civilian staff and the issue of whether the allocation in the 2012 Budget for Equal Pay Compensation has had to be rescinded back to the Treasury.

xviii. The Committee considered correspondence from an individual regarding his complaint about the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a copy of the Minister of Justice’s response to the individual.

xix. The Committee noted an invitation from NIACRO to the 4th  Justice Series 2011-12 seminar on Public Protection: Education, Engagement and Enforcement on Tuesday 24 April 2012.

xx. The Committee noted a copy of the Northern Ireland Police Fund Annual Report and Accounts for Year Ending 31 March 2011.

xxi. The Committee noted a nil return from the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report for the Department of Justice – February 2012.

xxii. The Committee noted the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland Conference Report – “The future of victim and witness care: from aspiration to reality”.

xxiii. The Committee noted an invitation from the Minister of Justice to a NI Civil Service Live Event on 24 April 2012.

12. Chairman’s Business

i. The Chairman informed members that both he and the Deputy Chairman had received an invitation from the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust to attend an educational visit to Core Systems (NI) and Hydebank Young Offenders Centre on Friday 27 April 2012.

ii. The Chairman reminded members of the invitation from the Attorney General to attend his Criminal Justice Colloquium on Wednesday 2 May to discuss “speeding up justice” and advised that he would be attending the event.

13. Any Other Business

i. The decision of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland to bring prosecution against former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain and Biteback Publishing for contempt of court for criticising a Judge was raised.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Attorney General requesting that he attend a Committee meeting to explain the basis of his decision was made and what public interest test assessment was made.

ii. The issue of the RUC Part-time Reserve Gratuity Scheme was raised.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request an update on the final position in relation to the Gratuity.

14. Date and Time of next Meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 19 April at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

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

15. Review of Judicial Appointments in Northern Ireland – Consideration of evidence and discussion of final views in relation to findings and any possible recommendations

The Committee noted the legal advice provided in relation to the possibility of carrying out a further review in due course.

The Committee considered the evidence received in relation to the Review of Judicial Appointments and discussed possible findings and recommendations.

4.27 p.m. Mr Weir joined the meeting.

4.36 p.m. Ms McCann left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that a draft report outlining the evidence and findings should be prepared for consideration and agreement at the meeting on 26 April.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that a motion to debate the Committee report on the Review of Judicial Appointments in the Plenary should be drafted.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the content of the proposed appendices to the report.

5.01 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
26 April 2012

Find Your MLA

tools-map.png

Locate your local MLA

Find MLA

News and Media Centre

tools-media.png

Read press releases, watch live and archived video

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

tools-social.png

Keep up to date with what’s happening at the Assem

Find out more

Contact information

tools-newsletter.png

Contact us for further information about our work.

Contact us