Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 23 May 2013
Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings
The meeting commenced at 2.09 p.m. in public session.
Apologies are listed above.
2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 16 May 2013
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 16 May 2013.
3. Matters Arising
i. The Committee noted an updated Forward Work Programme for May to July 2013 which included a number of informal meetings and a visit to the Public Prosecution Service and Witness Care Unit. The Chairman advised Members that the Minister of Justice would attend the meeting on 13 June 2013 to discuss the policy and draft
consultation document on a new powers package for the Office of the Police Ombudsman and that an up-date briefing on the Desertcreat Capital Project was scheduled for 20 June 2013.
ii. The Committee noted a supplementary research paper on any correlation between the impact of the economic recession and reduced incomes and an increase in civil legal aid expenditure.
iii. The Committee noted information provided to committee staff during the meeting held in HM Prison Magilligan on 16 May on the Northern Ireland Prison Service Cognitive Programme Provision.
iv. The Chairman advised the Committee that the issue of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland appeared to rest with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and would require Westminster legislation.
4. Equal Pay Claims for DoJ/NIO/PSNI Support Staff
Karen Pearson, Deputy Director of Personnel and Office Services, Louise Warde-Hunter, Deputy Director, Policing Policy and Strategy Division, and Glyn Capper, Deputy Director, Financial Services Division, Department of Justice, joined the meeting at 2.14 p.m.
The officials outlined the position in relation to the equal pay issue for PSNI support staff.
2.25 p.m. Mr Patsy McGlone joined the meeting.
2.33 p.m. Mr Alban Maginness joined the meeting.
A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the reasons why the Department of Justice was not satisfied that the draft business case submitted by the PSNI in October 2010 demonstrated an entitlement; the role of the Department of Finance and Personnel in relation to the draft business case; whether the PSNI intends to bring forward a future business case; the estimated cost if the recent judgement had established liability; the current position regarding the future use of any ring-fenced money; the moral argument regarding PSNI support staff entitlement to an equal pay award; what efforts were being made to resolve the issue of the PSNI support staff equal pay claim despite the recent court judgement; what efforts the Department of Justice had made to find a mechanism to deliver a settlement to PSNI support staff; the role of NIPSA; and how the court decision and future intentions of the PSNI in relation to this matter are being communicated to PSNI support staff.
The officials agreed to provide the Committee with a copy of the 1996 correspondence between Sir David Fell (the then Head of the NI Civil Service) and NIPSA and, subject to advice, a copy of the PSNI draft business case. Officials also agreed to advise the PSNI of the Committee's view that senior police management should communicate the implications of the recent court case directly to support staff and advise staff of any future intentions the PSNI has in relation to this matter.
The briefing was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked the officials for the briefing and they left the meeting.
2.45 p.m. Mr Alex Easton left the meeting.
The Chairman advised Members that a debate on a private members' motion on access to the equal pay settlement for PSNI and NIO staff was listed on the Order Paper for Tuesday 4 June 2013.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to send a copy of the Department of Justice briefing paper and the Hansard of the evidence session to the Committee for Finance and Personnel given its interest in this matter.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Northern Ireland Policing Board to ask what action, if any, it is taking in relation to the PSNI support staff equal pay cases.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite the Chief Constable to attend a Committee meeting to brief Members on the equal pay cases and a number of other issues.
5. G8 Summit (Privileges and Immunities) Order 2013
The Committee noted that the G8 Summit (Privileges and Immunities) Order 2013, made under the International Organisations Act 1968, to confer immunities and privileges upon the representatives of the sovereign Powers, other than the United Kingdom, for the duration of the G8 Summit, would come into force on 9 June 2013.
2.50 p.m. Mr William Humphrey left the meeting.
6. Judicial Review of Proceedings Relating to Fine Default
The Committee considered information, including legal and financial implications, provided by the Department of Justice on five recent judicial reviews which sought to challenge various aspects of the arrangements for imposing and enforcing fines and other monetary penalties in Northern Ireland. The judgments, delivered on 22 March 2013, found the current processes to be flawed in a number of respects.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to assess progress by the Department of Justice to address the issues raised by the judgments on a regular basis and, at a future oral briefing on the matter, the Committee would discuss the issue of the Department identifying its legal obligations before court cases/judicial reviews are taken.
7. Future Regulation of the Private Security Industry – Results of Consultation Exercises
The Committee noted information provided by the Department of Justice on the results of two consultations on the future regulation of the private security industry. An oral briefing would be scheduled when proposals on the way forward are available for the Committee to consider.
8. Reform of Police Unsatisfactory Performance and Discipline Procedures
The Committee considered proposals by the Department of Justice to undertake a 12 week targeted consultation with key stakeholders on two sets of draft regulations and one set of rules to reform the discipline and unsatisfactory performance procedures for the PSNI.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the targeted consultation on the draft regulations and rules to take place and to consider the matter further when the results of the consultation are available.
9. Update on Police Negotiating Board
The Committee noted the current position on the replacement of the Police Negotiating Board and the decision by the Minister of Justice to consult further on the creation of the new Police Remuneration Review Body and the possible inclusion of Northern Ireland or an alternative way forward that meets the needs of policing here.
10. Judicial Pensions
The Committee noted information provided by the Department of Justice regarding judicial pensions, litigation against the Department arising from a recent decision of the Supreme Court in the case of O'Brien and the decision by the Minister of Justice to apply a moratorium to the fee paid office holders in tribunals for which the Department of Justice is currently responsible to minimise the risk of further unnecessary litigation and the cost associated with defending these.
i. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety's request for clarification on whether people convicted of cigarette related duty evasion under the Customs and Excise Management Duty Act 1979 results in the convicted person being banned from selling tobacco products for a set period of time.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the Department's letter to the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
ii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice advising that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had indicated that, for the time being, non-jury trials should continue to be available and she would make the necessary Order to extend the temporary provisions which would be reviewed in two years' time.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request information on the number of non jury trials which had taken place during the period of time covered by the previous Order and the circumstances relating to each trial.
iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice advising of the appointment of Tom McGonigle as the new Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
iv. The Committee noted the Official Statistics publication, 'Views on Organised Crime: Findings from January 2013 Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey' which was published on 17 May 2013.
v. The Committee noted a copy of a letter from a Mr Kells to the Minister of Justice regarding injury on duty awards for former police officers over the age of 65.
vi. The Committee noted a copy of correspondence from a Mr and Mrs Shaw to the Chief Constable regarding alleged issues with the PSNI and handling of court cases.
vii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to the Department of Justice requesting information in relation to Third Sector Mapping.
viii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety to the Department of Justice requesting information on what action the Department is taking in relation to suicide prevention strategies.
ix. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment providing the terms of reference for a Review of the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland and a questionnaire for key stakeholders.
Agreed: The Committee agreed a response was not required as the Review did not cover justice matters.
x. The Committee noted a Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service Statistical Press Release- Mortgages: Actions for Possession January- March 2013.
12. Chairman's Business
i. The Chairman advised Members that he had recently met with representatives of the Ulster Clay Pigeon Shooting Association and the Northern Ireland Federation of Shooting Sports, at their request, to discuss a number of issues relating to firearms legislation including those around young shooters and Section 104 of the Justice Act (NI) 2011 which had not yet been commenced by the Department of Justice.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request details on the current position in relation to Section 104 of the Justice Act (NI) 2011, why it had not yet been enacted, whether the Department of Justice is considering changes to the provisions and, if so, whether the revised provisions will be included in the forthcoming Faster, Fairer Justice Bill.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite representatives of the Ulster Clay Pigeon Shooting Association and the Northern Ireland Federation of Shooting Sports to brief the Committee when the Department of Justice has responded on the issues raised regarding the proposed changes to firearms legislation and other miscellaneous proposals.
ii. The Chairman advised Members that he had recently met with representatives of the Limavady Human Rights (LHR) Committee, at their request, to discuss issues of concern around the perceived abuse of police powers of arrest and the process by the judiciary in recent cases.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to refer the papers provided by the LHR Committee to the Chief Constable, the Minister of Justice and the Office of the Lord Chief Justice and ask them to respond directly to the LHR Committee on the issues that fall within their responsibilities and provide a copy of the response to the Committee.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to send a copy of the letter to the Chief Constable to the Chairman of the Policing Board for information.
iii. The Chairman advised Members that he had received an invitation from the Committee for Social Development to a stakeholder event on "Repossessions and Negative Equity in the NI Housing Market" on Thursday 6 June 2013 which he was unable to attend as it takes place at the same time as the Justice Committee meeting.
13. Any Other Business
14. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting will take place on Thursday 30 May 2013 at 2.00 pm in Room 30 Parliament Buildings.
The meeting was adjourned at 3.07 p.m.