Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 27 September 2012

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

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

1.    Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2.    Draft minutes of the meeting held on 20 September 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 20 September 2012.

3.    Matters Arising

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

ii   The Chairperson informed Members that Bill folders had been updated with the Public Prosecution Service consultation document entitled ‘Prosecuting Cases of Human Trafficking’and the PSNI written submission.

4.    Criminal Justice Bill: Sex Offender Notification and DNA/Fingerprint Retention Clauses  

Gareth Johnston, Deputy Director of Criminal Justice Policy and Legislation Division, DOJ; and Amanda Patterson, Criminal Justice Policy and Legislation Division, DOJ joined the meeting at 2.05p.m.

2.05p.m. Raymond McCartney joined the meeting.

2.06p.m. Alban Maginness joined the meeting.

The officials outlined the nature and purpose of the clauses of the Criminal Justice Bill relating to sex offender notification and other changes to the Sexual Offences Act 2003. 

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the main differences in the proposed legislation compared to existing legislation; the variations between the proposed legislation in Northern Ireland and other UK jurisdictions; the criteria the Chief Constable has to take into account when assessing an application for review, and how this compares to other UK jurisdictions; the time limits attached to reviews; the appeals process; and measures to ensure that sex offenders that arrive in Northern Ireland from other countries are made subject to notification requirements.

Agreed:     The Committee agreed that, in relation to the sex offender notification clauses, the Department should provide it with a paper on the main differences between the Criminal Justice Bill and the clause proposed for the previous Justice Bill and an analysis of the proposed legislation compared to other UK jusrisdictions.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Mr Johnston and Ms Patterson for the briefing and they left the meeting.

David Hughes, Deputy Director of Policing Policy and Strategy Division, DOJ; Ian Kerr, Police Powers and Custody Branch, DOJ; and Gary Dodds, Police Powers and Custody Branch, DOJ joined the meeting at 2.35p.m.

The officials outlined the nature and purpose of the clauses and schedules of the Criminal Justice Bill relating to DNA/fingerprint retention and addressed the issues highlighted by the Examiner of Statutory Rules in relation to the delegated powers inserted by Schedule 2 of the Bill.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: whether a Biometric Commissioner would be appointed or whether the courts would assume that role; the point at which the investigation of an offence concludes; the extent to which the Bill is compatible with the presumption of innocence; and the existing material that will be destroyed under the proposed new framework.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Mr Hughes, Mr Kerr and Mr Dodds for the briefing and they left the meeting.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed that, in relation to DNA/fingerprint retention, the Department should provide it with a paper on the main differences between the system proposed for Northern Ireland and the systems operated in other UK jusrisdictions.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to refer any issues raised by respondents in relation to the clauses that were not covered during the briefing sessions to the Department for a written response.

5.    Briefing on the Introduction of Witness Care Units in Northern Ireland

Pamela Atchison, Deputy Director, PPS; Marianne O’Kane, Temporary Assistant Director, Policy and Information Section, PPS; Assistant Chief Constable Hamilton, PSNI and Superintendent Andrea McMullan, PSNI joined the meeting at 3.12pm.

The officials outlined the progress on the development of Witness Care Units in Northern Ireland.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the range of benefits for witnesses; the purpose of the pilot scheme and the timetable to extend the scheme; the current unit staffing levels for both the PPS and the PSNI and the likely increase in those levels; whether a central unit or regionalised units would suit better the needs of witnesses; unit opening hours; the need to keep victims and witnesses abreast of developments in a regular and timely manner; and the PPS’s role in having lead responsibility for the project.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Ms Atchison, Ms O’Kane, Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton and Superintendent McMullan for the briefing and they left the meeting.

6.    October Monitoring Round    

Anthony Harbinson, Director of Justice Delivery, DOJ; Glynn Capper, Deputy Director of Finance, DOJ; and Mark Bryson, Acting Head of Financial Planning and Budgeting, DOJ joined the meeting at 3.42p.m.

The officials outlined the Department’s October 2012 Monitoring Round return.

3.47p.m. Patsy McGlone left the meeting.

3.48p.m. Rosaleen McCorley left the meeting.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues including: the total number of applications to the NI Prison Exit Scheme and the associated costs; the reasons for the pressure of £11m identified in relation to legal aid costs; the estimate for PSNI hearing loss claims; and funding for the Desertcreat project. 

Agreed:     The Committee agreed that the departmental briefing on the December Monitoring Round should include information on the outcome of the Department’s investigation into the rise in the cost of civil legal aid cases.

The Chairman thanked Mr Harbinson, Mr Capper, and Mr Bryson for the briefing and they left the meeting.    

7.    S.R. 2012/272 The Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) 2012       

The Committee considered Statutory Rule 2012/272 The Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) 2012 which seeks to make provision to address a gap in the legislation on the enforcement of breaches of compassionate bail until an amendment to primary legislation can be made.

The Committee noted that the Examiner of Statutory Rules had raised an issue with regard to a technical aspect of the Rule and that Members of the Rules Committee, including the Chairman, had indicated that they were content to accept the Examiner's proposed amendment.

Agreed:    The Committee for Justice considered Statutory Rule 2012/272 The Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) 2012 and has no objection to the rule.

8.    DOJ/DHSSPS Human Trafficking Guidance: Working arrangements for the welfare and protection of adult victims of human trafficking – results of targeted consultation

The Committee considered the results of the consultation on draft guidance on working arrangements for the welfare and protection of adult victims of human trafficking, which had been developed jointly with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in consultation with Amnesty International and the Law Centre, and the revised draft guidance which had been amended to reflect the responses.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed that it was content with the revised draft guidance and to consider further the issue of a rapporteur when dealing with the human trafficking clauses of the Criminal Justice Bill.

9.    Report on activity on European issues – Response to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister

The Committee considered a draft response to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister’s request for a report on Committee for Justice activity on European issues for the period May 2011 to August 2012.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed the response to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

10.  Correspondence

i      The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing clarification of the length of time required for a case, proceeding by way of summons, to complete all stages of the proposed Statutory Time Limits framework.

ii     The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Social Development which included an extract from an Assembly research paper ‘Mapping Poverty and Social Deprivation: Executive and Departmental Strategies, Policies and Programmes in Northern Ireland’.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting information on how its policies, strategies and programmes address social deprivation and poverty.

iii    The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Education providing a copy of the Priorities for Youth consultation document which proposes changes to historic funding arrangements.

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice to seek information on the likely implications of the proposals on community-based programmes in interface areas.

iv    The Committee noted an invitation from the Lyric Theatre to a special preview performance of its production “The Long Road” which relates to knife crime on Tuesday 2nd October.

Agreed:     The Committee agreed that Members would contact the Committee Clerk if they wished to attend.

v     The Committee noted the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service Annual Report and Resource Accounts 2011/12.

vi    The Committee noted the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation Annual Report 2010/11.

11.  Chairman’s Business

The Chairman advised Members that a motion had been tabled by the First Minister and deputy First Minister for debate on Tuesday 2 October regarding authority to make appointments to the NI Judicial Appointments Commission.

12.  Any other business

The Chairman and Members thanked Mr Anderson and Mr Weir for their contributions to the Committee for Justice and wished them well in their new Committee appointments.

13.  Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 4 October 2012 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

4.17 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

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

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