Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 07 June 2012

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 2.05 p.m.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 31 May 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 31 May 2012.

3. Matters Arising

None.

4. Briefing by the State Pathologist on the Retention of Human Tissue Samples

Professor Jack Crane, State Pathologist for Northern Ireland, joined the meeting at 2.10 p.m.

Professor Crane briefly outlined the role of the State Pathologist’s Department in the retention of human tissue samples.   

2.11 p.m. Mr McGlone joined the meeting.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering a range of issues including where responsibility lies for informing families about the retention of human tissue samples; which organisation decides to retain samples; the timeline for the changes in the practice of retaining human tissue samples; whether it had been made clear to the public in 2002 that human tissue samples could have been retained in relation to criminal cases without the knowledge of families; why, with the introduction of the helpline, it was left for families to ask if samples had been retained rather than the responsibility of the Authorities to make contact with them; whether samples have been retained and disposed of without the notification of families; whether there was instances of families making contact and the samples had already been destroyed; an explanation of the different categories of retained tissue samples; whether the police were notified when tissue samples were handed back or disposed of; why a decision was not taken after the Department of Health Review in 2002 to notify families; who has authority to dispose of samples; what the current position is in relation to samples that have been retained; how records are kept and what communication takes place with the police; the need for an audit mechanism; and whether there is need for an inquiry into how the issue has been handled.  

2.23 p.m. Mr Elliott joined the meeting.

2.41 p.m. Mr Weir joined the meeting.

2.55 p.m. Mr Wells left the meeting.

2.58 p.m. Ms McCann joined the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Professor Crane for the briefing and he left the meeting.

5. Briefing by the Office of the Police Ombudsman on the Retention of Human Tissue Samples

Pete O’Sullivan, Acting Senior Director of Investigations and Jeff Smyth, Acting Director of Investigations joined the meeting at 3.01 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on the retention of human tissue samples by the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering a range of issues such as the reason the Police Ombudsman’s Office announced in a press release that it had retained tissue samples prior to informing the families involved; whether there should be an investigation to ascertain if the Ombudsman’s Code of Ethics has been broken; what the timescale is for discussing the retention of tissue samples with the families involved; what steps are being taken to ensure it does not happen again; where the problem in the system lay; at what level in the Organisation was the decision to retain samples taken; the total number of samples retained; why adequate record systems were not in place given the office is a relatively new organisation; and how the Ombudsman’s Office became aware of the Audit.

3.38 p.m. Mr McGlone left the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Justice requesting an up-date on the need for an independent inquiry following his oral statement in the Assembly on 21 May when he indicated that he would review the position after two weeks and seeking clarification of whether he now has a clear understanding of how the process failed and where the authority lies to take the decision to destroy retained tissue samples.

3.46 p.m. Mr Anderson left the meeting.

3.46 p.m. Mr Wells rejoined the meeting.

6. Briefing on the Department of Justice Savings Delivery Plans, 2011/2012 Provisional Outturn and June 2012 Monitoring Round

Anthony Harbison, Director of Justice Delivery, Glyn Capper, Deputy Director of Finance, and Mark Bryson, Acting Head of Financial Planning and Budgeting, joined the meeting at 3.25 p.m.

The officials briefly outlined the current position in relation to the Departmental Savings Delivery Plans, the June Monitoring Round and the 2011/12 provisional outturn.

A detailed question and answer session followed covering issues such as the ability of the Legal Services Commission to more accurately predict legal aid spend; the current situation regarding the payment of Hearing Loss Claims; the reasons for the underspend in relation to Desertcreat College; the likely impact of the Saving Delivery Plans on frontline services provided by the Probation Board and the office of the Police Ombudsman and actions being taken to mitigate pressures; the challenge function exercised by the Department in relation to the Savings Delivery Plans of the various Directorates and Agencies; the current position regarding the availability of the additional security funding; and how long the PSNI Equal Pay Funding will be available.

Officials agreed to provide a breakdown of the £9.5 million underspend and an update on the details of the payment of Hearing Loss Claims.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

7. Statutory Rule – The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide (2007 Act) (Commencement) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee considered a Statutory Rule to bring into operation that part of the offence of corporate manslaughter that applies to duties of care owed to persons in custody or detention such as persons being held in prisons, police and court cells, juvenile justice centres, secure accommodation, immigration detention facilities and patients detailed under mental health legislation.

Agreed: The Committee considered the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide (2007 Act) (Commencement) Order (Northern Ireland) 2012 and has no objection to the Rule.

8. Statutory Rule 2012/188 – The Penalty Notices (Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011) (Enforcement of Fines) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

The Committee considered a Statutory Rule to prescribe the procedure for the enforcement by a Magistrates’ Court of an unpaid Penalty Notice.

Agreed: The Committee considered Statutory Rule 2012/188 – The Penalty Notices (Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011) (Enforcement of Fines) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and has no objection to the Rule.

9. Amendment of the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 for the 2013 World Police and Fire Games Northern Ireland

The Committee considered proposals from the Department of Justice to apply for a Designation Order to enable the change required to Article 15 of the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 for a certified copy of the original European Firearms Pass to be submitted rather than the original when seeking a Visitor’s Firearm Permit, to be made by subordinate rather than primary legislation.

Agreed: The Committee agreed with the proposal for the Minister to apply for a Designation Order but wished to see the consultation responses in relation to the use of a certified copy of the original European Firearms Pass and further information on how this matter operates in other European Countries. 

3.55 p.m. Mr Anderson rejoined the meeting.

10. European Court of Justice Jurisdiction for Pre-Lisbon Police and Criminal Justice Measures in 2014 – Block Opt - Out Decision

The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the UK Government is considering whether or not it wishes to accept Court of Justice of the European Union jurisdiction over all 133 pre-Lisbon “Third Pillar” measures or decide to opt out of all en masse. This decision is commonly referred to as the ‘block opt-out’ or ‘2014 decision’.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request details of the assessment that has been carried out on the likely implications for Northern Ireland and who the Department is consulting with on this matter.

11. Results of the Consultation on Proposals to align Civil Explosives Directive and Pyrotechnic Directive

The Committee noted the results of the consultation on proposals to align two EU Directives: the Civil Explosives Directive and the Pyrotechnic Articles Directive within existing legislation.

12. Court Rules Committee Forward Work Programme – Additional Information

The Committee considered further information in relation to four Court Rules.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the Rules further when they are submitted in advance of being allowed by the Department.

13. Correspondence

i. The Committee noted a response from the Minister for Justice to the Committee’s Report on the Review of Judicial Appointments and Removal Arrangements in Northern Ireland.

ii. The Committee considered responses from the Department of Justice and the Policing Board to the Committee’s request for clarification on the arrangements to address the shortfall of independent members appointed to the Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSPs) in four Council areas.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to Department of Justice requesting clarification of the distinction between independent and elected members of Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.

iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing an up-date on the outcome of the policy review and the associated judicial review on the policy on treatment of Northern Ireland conflict related convictions.   

iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing a copy of the Victim and Witness Annual Action Plan 2012-2013.

v. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing information from  the Department of Finance and Personnel regarding the Northern Ireland Civil Service Equal Pay dispute and the position regarding the £26 million ring-fenced by the PSNI for payment of equal pay claims if it is found liable.

vi. The Committee noted an invitation from the Minister of Justice to the launch of the Organised Task Force Annual Report and Threat Assessment for 2012 on Wednesday 4 July 2012.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that any Member wishing to attend the event should advise the Committee Clerk who will make the necessary arrangements.

vii. The Committee noted an invitation from the Department of Justice to workshops being held as part of the consultation on the Future Regulation of the Private Security Industry in Northern Ireland.

viii.  The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice advising of his intention to announce proposals in the Assembly on 11 June aimed at increasing public confidence in sentencing.

14. Chairman’s Business

The Chairman advised the Committee that he and the Deputy Chairman had been invited to participate in an All Party Group on Ethnic Minorities event on 7 June, Unfortunately they were unable to attend but Mr Maginness, who would be attending in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, had agreed to represent the Committee.

15. Any other business

None.

16. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 14 June 2012 at 2.00 p.m. in the Probation Board Offices in Antrim.

4.11 p.m. the meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
14 June 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