Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 03 May 2012

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

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

1. Apologies

None.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 26 April 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 26 April 2012.

3. Matters Arising

i. The Chairman advised Members that the debate on the Committee’s report on the Review of Judicial Appointments in Northern Ireland had been scheduled for Monday 14 May 2012. The Committee noted that the report would be embargoed until the start of the debate.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to send pre-release copies of the report to the First Minister and deputy First Minister and the Minister of Justice.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to send an electronic copy of the report to the organisations and individuals that provided oral and/or written evidence to the Review.

ii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing an outline of Pilot Schemes for Full Body Imaging Scanners in Northern Ireland prisons.

4. Briefing by the Interim Chief Executive of the Office of the Police Ombudsman on his role and remit

Mr Colin Lewis, the Interim Chief Executive of the Office of the Police Ombudsman, joined the meeting at 2.07 p.m.

2.07 p.m. Mr McCartney joined the meeting. 

2.07 p.m. Mr Lynch joined the meeting.

Mr Lewis briefly outlined his role and remit and answered questions on a range of issues including what measures are being taken by the Office of the Police Ombudsman to protect information and prevent leaks; details of the transformation plan and action plan; preparations for the recruitment of a new Chief Executive; the status of each senior staff member; the nature of the Interim Chief Executive’s role and the background to his appointment; his experience and expertise; the status of a number of historical cases and the handover process to the new Police Ombudsman.

2.14 p.m. Ms McCann joined the meeting. 

2.14 p.m. Mr McGlone joined the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Mr Lewis and he left the meeting.

The Chairperson advised members that due to the availability of witnesses the order of the meeting would vary from that detailed in the agenda. 

5. Briefing on the Commencement of Articles 19 and 20 of the Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2008

Max Murray, Director of Offender Services, NI Prison Service and Alan Smyth, Head of Licensing and Legislation, NI Prison Service, joined the meeting at 2.41 p.m.

The Departmental officials briefly outlined the provisions of Articles 19 and 20 and answered questions on a range of  issues including whether Assembly approval is required to commence the provisions; the reasons for the proposal to commence the Article and the link with accommodation pressures in the Prison Service; what the process would be for the release of Prisoners under Article 19; other solutions to accommodation pressures such as sharing cells; the ability of the Probation Service to supervise prisoners on license and possible resource consequences; the increase in prisoner numbers and the reasons for this; measures to reduce imprisonment of fine defaulters and the likely impact on reducing the number of prisoners; and the likely impact of this proposal on victims and what account will be taken of their views when deciding on the early release of a prisoner.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

3.10 p.m. Mr Anderson left the meeting.

3.15 p.m. Mr Elliott joined the meeting.

The Chairman thanked the officials for the briefing and Alan Smyth left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to provide the Minister of Justice with the Hansard of the evidence session to enable him to consider the views expressed and issues raised. 

6. Briefing on the 2013 World Police and Fire Games

David Ferguson, Chief Executive, 2013 World Police and Fire Games and Alistair McGowan, Communications and Marketing Director, 2013 World Police and Fire Games joined the meeting at 3.16 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on progress in relation to the 2013 World Police and Fire Games to be held in Belfast and answered question on a range of issues including the number of participants and spectators expected at the Games; the cost to local policing of the Games including security costs; lessons learned from the most recent Games held in New York; likely media interest in the Games; and the capacity to advertise “Northern Ireland”; the potential venues to be used; the likely community impact and opportunities to involve local schools; and the opportunity to offer pre-Games training facilities.

3.40 p.m. Mr Anderson rejoined the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

7. SR 2012/122 The Valuation Tribunal (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2012/122 which amends the Valuation Tribunal Rules (Northern Ireland) 2007 to make provision to regulate the practice and procedure of high hedge appeal proceedings before the NI Valuation Tribunal and noted further information provided by the Department of Justice on why an amendment to the Statutory Rule could not have been laid before the statutory period ran out.

Agreed: The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2012/122 The Valuation Tribunal (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2012 and has no objection to the Rule.

8. Consideration of a draft Consultation Document on a Strategic Framework for Reducing Offending

The Committee considered a draft consultation document provided by the Department of Justice on a comprehensive Strategic Framework for Reducing Offending.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation document to be published and to consider the draft Strategic Framework further once the results of the consultation exercise are available.

9. Consideration of a draft Consultation Document on the Introduction of Community Impact Assessments

The Committee considered a draft consultation document provided by the Department of Justice on the introduction of Community Impact Assessments in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation document to be published and to consider the results of the consultation exercise and the proposed way forward in due course.

10. Programme for Government 2011 – 15: Department of Justice Delivery Plans 

The Committee noted the first version of the Department of Justice Programme for Government Delivery Plans and correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing the PfG Delivery Plan template. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the delivery plans further at a future meeting. 

11. Consideration of correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on NICS Equal Pay Issues

The Committee noted correspondence from by the Committee for Finance and Personnel in relation to NICS Equal Pay Issues.

12. Correspondence

i. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for further information on the introduction of portable disclosure checks in Northern Ireland.

ii. The Committee noted that the Carriage of Dangerous Goods: Approved Derogations and Transitional Provisions Document had been published.

iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding its High Court Application in relation to Court Funds Practice and Procedures.   

iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a copy of a written statement by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice announcing a new ex-gratia scheme to allow victims of overseas terrorist attacks to claim compensation from the Government.

v. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety seeking the agreement of the Committee to forward a letter to the Minister of Justice regarding its concerns in relation to a recent attack on healthcare staff and the leniency of the sentence given.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice and to the Lord Chief Justice.

vi. The Committee considered correspondence from the Policing Board regarding Custody visitors undertaking visits to detainees in the UK Border Agency (UKBA) Short Term Holding Facility in Larne.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Home Office and the UK Border Agency for a response and to copy the correspondence to the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency for information.

vii. The Committee noted a copy of the Criminal Justice Inspection News Letter for March 2012.

viii. The Committee noted a copy of the consultation by Steven Agnew MLA in relation to his Private Member’s Bill on ‘A Statutory Duty to Co-operate on Children’s Services’. 

ix. The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice confirming that those Prison Service staff eligible to receive their age retirement lump sum gratuity and continue working can do so without it affecting their position within the Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme.

x. The Committee noted a Criminal Justice Inspection Report on the adequacy of the courts estate.

xi. The Committee considered a Strategic Outline Case for an Estate Management Strategy for the Northern Ireland Courts Service prepared by Pricewaterhouse Coopers in 2009 provided by the Department of Justice. 

Agreed:     The Committee agreed that a briefing session on the terms of reference for the Review of the Courts Estate and what it will cover should be scheduled into the work programme. 

xii. The Committee considered correspondence from Old Warren Community Association to the Minister of Justice regarding an appointment to the Lisburn Policing and Community Safety Partnership. 

Agreed:    The Committee agreed to request a copy of the Minister of Justice’s response to the Old Warren Community Association. 

13. Chairman’s Business

None.

14. Any other business

The issue of a recent BBC Programme in relation to the Catholic Church, the information broadcast, the public concerns expressed and the Criminal Law (NI) 1967 which covers an offence of withholding information from the police was discussed.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Chief Constable requesting information on what action he is taking in response to the information broadcast in relation to this matter. 

15. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 10 May at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

4.21 p.m. the meeting was adjourned.

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

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