Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 09 February 2012

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 2.07 p.m. in public session.

1.      Apologies

None.

2.      Draft minutes of the meeting held on 2 February 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 2 February 2012.

3.      Matters Arising

i.            The Committee considered correspondence from the Association of British Insurers requesting an opportunity to brief the Committee on the issue of the high cost of car insurance in Northern Ireland.

Agreed:           The Committee agreed to request that the high cost of car insurance in Northern Ireland be put on the agenda of the next meeting of the Chairperson’s Liaison Group given the cross-cutting nature of the matter. 

2.09 p.m. Mr Anderson joined the meeting.

ii.            The Committee noted an up-dated forward work programme for February and March 2012.

Agreed:           The Committee agreed that a briefing on the Public Protection Arrangements for Northern Ireland should be scheduled into the work programme.

2.10 p.m. Mr Weir joined the meeting.

2.10 p.m. Mr Maginness joined the meeting.

4.      Briefing by the Chief Inspector, Dr Michael Maguire, on the Criminal Justice Inspection Report: Avoidable Delay - A Progress Report

Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Inspector and James Corrigan, Lead Inspector joined the meeting at 2.10 p.m.

The officials outlined the key findings of the CJI progress report into Avoidable Delay in the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland.  A question and answer session followed covering issues including the reasons for the periods of time taken by the various organisations to progress a case; how the introduction of a statutory limit could address the delays; what sort of system could be introduced; the need for a change in attitude and improved performance; the reasons for the deterioration in performance; the accountability mechanisms in place; what safeguards could be put in place to ensure cases did not exceed a statutory limit; whether there are sanctions available to ensure cases are not delayed; and what legislative requirements are need to bring forward statutory limits.

2.16 p.m. Mr Eastwood joined the meeting.

2.21 p.m. Ms McCann joined the meeting.

2.59 p.m. Mr McCrea joined the meeting.

3.03 p.m. Mr Eastwood left the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

5.      Briefing by officials in response to the findings of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate Progress Report into Avoidable Delay

Maura Campbell, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Development Division, Chris Matthews, Head of Speeding up Justice Branch and Jean Moore, Speeding up Justice Branch, Department of Justice, joined the meeting at 3.09 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on the current position with regard to the measures being taken to reduce avoidable delay in the Criminal Justice system and the decision to statutory time limits. 

A question and answer session followed covering issues such as why avoidable delay could not be reduced without the introduction of statutory time limits; the Department’s governance and accountability measures for tackling delay in the justice system; the need to identify the exact reasons for the delays; the importance of continuing with other actions while proposals for statutory time limits are considered; the timescale for the introduction of statutory time limits; the key performance indicators that are in place to measure performance; the likely nature of the legislative vehicle to be used to introduce statutory time limits; and what lessons can be learnt from other jurisdictions that have speeded up the justice system without introducing statutory time limits.     

3.33 p.m. Mr Eastwood rejoined the meeting.

3.37 p.m. Ms McCann left the meeting.

3.49 p.m. Mr Eastwood 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 Department of Justice on the issues raised. 

Agreed:            The Committee agreed to commission research on the operation of statutory time limits in other jurisdictions and on comparative figures between jurisdictions on the various stages as a case progresses through the criminal justice system.

6.      Briefing on the implementation of the NI Prison Service Strategic Efficiency and Effectiveness (SEE) Programme and Prison Review Recommendations

Colin McConnell, Director General, Ronnie Armour, Director of HR and Organisational Development, Max Murray, Director of Offender Services and Colin Bennett, Organisational Change Manager, Northern Ireland Prison Service, joined the meeting at 4.01 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on progress to implement the Strategic Efficiency and Effectiveness (SEE) Programme and Prison Review Recommendations.

Mr Givan declared an interest as a family member is an employee of the NI Prison Service.

4.08 p.m. Mr Dickson left the meeting.

A question and answer session followed covering issues such as the current position regarding the establishment of the Change Management Team; an up-date on the number of applications for the Exit Scheme and tax arrangements for the scheme; an up-date on the new recruitment process and the eligibility of current Prison Officers who take the exit package to apply for new posts; the current position in relation to the negotiations with the Trade Unions; the situation regarding the procurement of technology which would take the place of full body searches; sick absence levels in the Prison Service and the likely effect on the ability to deliver training to staff;  progress on the development of a comprehensive training programme for existing and new officers; when a detailed implementation plan would be available; the new target operating model; and the scale of the change required.

4.13 p.m. Ms McCann rejoined the meeting.

4.13 p.m. Mr Weir left the meeting.

4.41 p.m. Mr Lynch left the meeting.

4.54 p.m. Ms McCann 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 Department of Justice on the issues raised. 

7.       SL1 – Police Service of Northern Ireland Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 2012

The Committee noted that the Minister of Justice had decided to amend the proposed Statutory Rule, Police Service of Northern Ireland Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 2012, to implement the first year of increases in police officer pension contribution rates in light of a similar decision by the Home Secretary.  This was in line with the Executive’s decision that all public sector groups should maintain parity with their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

8.      Proposed consultation on Amendment to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 & the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004

The Committee considered a draft consultation document covering two proposed amendments to legislation to ensure compliance with the EU Directive on Human Trafficking and seeking views on how the Department of Justice engages with non-governmental and other organisations in relation to human trafficking issues.

Agreed:           The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation exercise to take place and to consider the issue further when the results of the consultation are available.

9.      Consultation on proposals to align the Pyrotechnic Articles Directive and the Civil Explosives Directive to the new Legislative Framework

The Committee considered a draft consultation document from the Department of Justice on proposals to align two EU Directives: the Civil Explosives Directive and the Pyrotechnic Articles Directive within existing legislation.

Agreed:          The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation exercise to take place and to consider the issue further when the results of the consultation are available. 

10.  Draft Committee response on the draft Programme for Government

The Committee considered a draft response to the consultation on the draft Programme for Government.

Agreed:          The Committee agreed its response on the draft Programme for Government which would be sent to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the Minister of Justice.

11.  Correspondence

i.          The Committee noted a copy of a response from the Minister of Justice to the Chairman of the Prison Officers Association regarding the Prison Reform Programme.

ii.          The Committee noted correspondence from the Chairman of the Security Industry Authority thanking the Committee for the opportunity to meet during the SIA visit.

iii.          The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service Judicial Statistics.

iv.          The Committee considered correspondence from the Probation Board for Northern Ireland requesting an opportunity to brief the Committee on the work of the Probation Board.

Agreed:          The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing as part of the planned visit to the Probation Board.

v.          The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on the draft European Priorities 2012-13. 

 vi.          The Committee noted correspondence from the Family Group Conference Forum regarding the work of the Forum in Northern Ireland. 

vii.          The Committee noted a follow-up report from the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) into Connecting Criminal Justice: the exchange of information by Criminal Justice Organisations through the Causeway IT programme.

viii.          The Committee noted an invitation from the Minister of Justice to an event in Parliament Buildings on 14 February when he will announce the first tranche of funding for projects through the distribution of recovered criminal assets.

ix.          The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding the publication of the new Long Term Policing Objectives.

12.  Chairman’s Business

The Chairman informed the Committee that both he and the Deputy Chairman are due to deliver a talk to the Belfast Solicitors’ Association on 15 February on the role and work of the Justice Committee.

13.  Any other business

None.

14.  Date and time of next meeting


The next meeting will take place on Thursday 16 February at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

5.15 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
16 February 2012

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