Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 31 January 2013

Venue: Room 30

The meeting commenced at 2.10 p.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 24 January 2013

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 24 January 2013.

3. Matters Arising

The Committee considered a response from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland regarding the possible reintroduction of a ‘Clause 34’ style provision to place a statutory duty on public bodies to ensure that they take account of crime, anti-social behaviour and community safety implications in the exercise of their functions.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite the Attorney General of Northern Ireland to attend a meeting to discuss the issue of a ‘Clause 34’ type provision.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the meeting would provide an opportunity to discuss issues arising from the oral evidence session with representatives of the Marie Stopes private clinic in Belfast with the Attorney General.

4. Briefing by Assembly Researcher on Financial Forecasting Performance Data: Scrutiny by Committees

Mr Colin Pidgeon, Assembly Researcher, joined the meeting at 2.13 p.m.

Mr Pidgeon outlined the key points in his research paper on financial forecasting performance data for 2012/13 relating to the Department of Justice.

2.15 p.m. Mr Patsy McGlone joined the meeting.

2.22 p.m. Mr Jim Wells left the meeting.

2.23 p.m. Mr Tom Elliott joined the meeting.

The Chairman thanked Mr Pidgeon for the briefing and he left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek further information from the Department of Justice on a number of issues highlighted in the research paper.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to commission a written research paper on the Department of Justice financial forecasting performance data on a quarterly basis.

5. Speeding up Justice – Six-Monthly Update and Mid-Stage Review of the Youth Engagement Pilot

Maura Campbell, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Development Division, Chris Matthews and Jean Moore, Criminal Justice Development Division, Department of Justice joined the meeting at 2.33 p.m.

The officials outlined the current performance in relation to reducing avoidable delay in criminal justice cases and the early findings from the implementation of the Youth Engagement pilot project. 

 2.53 p.m. Mr Jim Wells joined the meeting.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including: the importance of providing information which gives a full picture of the position; the reasons why there has been a decline in the performance figures in relation to the date charged to the date of committal and the length of time from conviction to disposal in the Crown Court, for the period 2010/11 to 2011/12; the reasons why the proposed Statutory Time Limits are not based on arrest or voluntary attendance at interview; whether young people taking part in the Youth Engagement pilot are advised that they are entitled to legal representation; how the evaluation of the Youth Engagement pilot would be conducted before the programme is rolled out to other areas; the locations and scale of any proposed roll-out of the Youth Engagement programme; and, the shortcomings in the flow of information between the agencies involved in the Youth Engagement pilot and the steps being taken to rectify the position.

The briefing was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked the officials and they left the meeting.

6. Draft Statutory Rule: The Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (Designated Organisations) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Committee considered Draft Statutory Rule The Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (Designated Organisations) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 which lists the bodies that will have a requirement placed upon them to provide representation on all Policing and Community Safety Partnerships and District Policing and Community Safety Partnerships across Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee for Justice considered Draft Statutory Rule: The Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (Designated Organisations) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 and recommended that it be affirmed by the Assembly.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek clarification from the Department of Justice on the protocols between the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Housing Associations in relation to the Policing and Community Saftey Partnerships and the sharing of information.

7. Youth Justice Review: Implementation Plan Update 

The Committee noted a progress report on the implementation of the Youth Justice Review recommendations.

8. Update on Collaborative Working in Disadvantaged Areas

The Committee considered an up-date report from the Department of Justice on the Collaborative Working in Disadvantaged Areas initiative.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule an oral briefing on the Collaborative Working in Disadvantaged Areas initiative into its Forward Work Programme.

9. Transparency/Disclosure in the Family Courts: Responses to Discussion Paper on Sharing Information about Family Proceedings concerning Children

The Committee considered a briefing paper from the Department of Justice outlining the responses received to the discussion paper that sought views of key stakeholders on the circumstances in which it would be possible to share information about family proceedings concerning children without the court’s express permission and noted that, due to the low response rate the Department did not intend to propose specific changes to the legislative position at this time.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek clarification from the Department of Justice regarding the response rate that would be required in both this consultation and consultations generally before the Department would consider making policy/legislative changes.

10. Correspondence

i. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice in relation to the formalisation of existing arrangements for victim personal statements and expert victim impact reports and the introduction of community impact statements.

ii. The Committee considered a summary of progress on the delivery of Department of Justice capital projects detailed in the ISNI Delivery Tracking System.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek clarification from the Department of Justice on whether it is the lead organisation with regard to the delivery of the Desertcreat College capital project when the Committee is scrutinising progress.

iii. The Committee noted an invitation from the Minister of Justice to an event on 6 February 2013 on the Department of Justice reform agenda.

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

iv. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety indicating that the Department of Justice does not hold statistics in relation to the use of powers under Section 8H(4) of the Tobacco Products Duty Act 1979.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety to the Department of Justice for a response on the issue raised.

v. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing departmental public expenditure and forecast outturns information.

vi. The Committee considered correspondence from John Fahy & Co. Solicitors requesting an indication of when the Criminal Justice Bill would become law.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice and request that it responds directly to John Fahy & Co on the matter.

vii. The Committee noted the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation Annual Report for the period 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012.

viii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice advising that the current Prisoner Ombudsman, Pauline McCabe, would be leaving her post at the end of May 2013.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to Mrs McCabe to thank her for her contribution in her role as Prisoner Ombudsman.

ix. The Committee considered a response from the Department of Justice regarding the 2012 NICS Pay Award for PSNI civilian staff.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to Mr Hammond who had raised the issue.

x. The Committee considered a letter from the Chairman of the Committee on Procedures regarding its decision to proceed with its inquiry into the participation of the Attorney General in the proceedings of the Assembly in advance of the outcome of the consultation being undertaken by the Department of Justice on the Governance and Accountability of the Public Prosecution Service. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to advise the Department of Justice of the Committee on Procedure’s decision to proceed with its Inquiry and its request for any relevant documentation in relation to the consultation to be provided as soon as it becomes available.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Committee for Procedures and request that it considers clarifying the jurisdiction of Committees particularly with regard to private organisations where it relates to transferred matters.

xi. The Committee noted information from the Committee for Employment and Learning regarding an event by the University of Ulster on Tuesday 5 February in Parliament Buildings.

11. Chairman’s Business

i. The Chairman outlined proposals for a Committee visit to England to view a prison facility, visit the Supreme Court and meet with the Justice Committee at Westminster.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the outline programme and that the visit should take place on 13 and 14 March 2013.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that a visit to a privately operated prison would be included in a future visit.

ii. The Chairman advised Members that the Committee meeting to be held in a prison would be scheduled to take place in late April/early May in HM Prison Magilligan, subject to any practical difficulties being resolved.

12. Any other business

i. A Member highlighted that the Hansard of the oral evidence session with representatives of Marie Stopes International was now available and proposed that this should be referred to the Attorney General for Northern Ireland for his views on the issues raised and that legal advice on possible options to legislate to prevent private clinics carrying out abortive procedures in Northern Ireland and restrict such procedures to National Health Service facilities, if the Committee was minded to do so, and the competence of the Assembly to legislate on this matter should be requested.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request legal advice from Assembly Legal Services on possible options to legislate to prevent private clinics carrying out abortive procedures in Northern Ireland and restrict such procedures to National Health Service facilities.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to refer the Hansard of the oral evidence session with representatives of Marie Stopes International to the Attorney General in advance of the meeting with him to discuss the issues and to request advice on the legislative competence of the NI Assembly/options to legislate to prevent private clinics carrying out abortive procedures in Northern Ireland and restrict such procedures to National Health Service facilities.  

ii. A Member raised the issue of the Department of Justice proposed legislative programme for the remainder of the Assembly mandate.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request details of all proposed legislative changes by the Department of Justice over the next three years.

iii. A Member raised the issue of a recent Court of Appeal ruling in relation to the Criminal Records Bureau and the requirement for job seekers to disclose details of all convictions and the impact that this might have on Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing by the Department of Justice on the implications for Northern Ireland of a recent Court of Appeal ruling in relation to the Criminal Records Bureau and the requirement for job seekers to disclose details of all convictions into its Forward Work Programme.

13. Date and time of next meeting 

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 14 February 2013 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

3.27 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA, Chairman, Committee for Justice
14 February 2013

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