Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 22 September 2011

Venue: Room 30

The meeting commenced at 2.02 p.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 15 September 2011

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 15 September 2011 .

3. Matters Arising

There were no matters arising.

2.05 p.m. Mr Weir joined the meeting.

4. Briefing by the Chief Inspector on the Criminal Justice Inspectorate report on the Use of Legal Services

Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice Inspection NI and James Corrigan, Inspector, joined the meeting at 2.05 p.m.

Dr Maguire briefed the Committee on the findings and recommendations of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate report on the Use of Legal Services.

A question and answer session followed covering issues such as the lack of transparency and discipline with regard to the procurement of legal services; the number of high profile serious cases in Northern Ireland and whether the disparity in costs of legal services between England and Wales is based on comparable cases; what savings would be made by reducing the disparity in the prosecution and defence fees; the method for assessing fees; the cost of expert witnesses; the need to improve the measurement of the quality of legal services provided by such methods as a quality assurance scheme; the use of an Advocate Deputy Role as in Scotland and the use of two counsel particularly by the defence.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Dr Maguire and Mr Corrigan for the briefing and they left the meeting.

5. Briefing on actions being taken in response to the findings and recommendations of the CJI report into the Use of Legal Services

Gareth Johnston, Head of Justice Strategy Division, Department of Justice, Robert Crawford, Head of Public Legal Services Division, Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service, Raymond Kitson, Acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Public Prosecution Service and David Lennox, Criminal Justice Strategy and Secretariat Branch, Department of Justice joined the meeting at 2.42 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on the proposed actions to be taken in response to the findings of the CJI report.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including measures to be taken to improve procurement processes for legal services; how the Department of Justice is actively engaging with others to improve procurement practices; the actions being taken by the PPS to introduce quality assurance of legal services; the time taken by the Department of Justice to reduce the cost of criminal legal aid; the need to determine the cost of legal services prior to the commencement of an assignment; the timetable for the convergence of prosecution and defence legal fees; the use of alternative dispute resolution and community-based restorative justice processes; the action plan and timescales to meet the recommendations of the report; and the creation of a new panel of legal practitioners by the PPS.

3.03 p.m. Mr McCrea joined the meeting.

The officials agreed to provide further information on the criteria for the new PPS panel list of counsel.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Mr Crawford and Mr Kitson for the briefing and they left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Chief Inspector of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate providing a copy of the action plan and timescales in response to the recommendations of the CJI report and seek his views on whether it was likely to deliver the sustained improvement required.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting a written update on progress on the action plan in the New Year.

3.30 p.m. Mr Eastwood left the meeting.

6. Briefing on proposals for reforming Committal Proceedings

Graham Walker, Criminal and Coroners’ Policy Division, NI Courts and Tribunals Service joined the meeting at 3.30 p.m.

The officials outlined plans to develop a consultation paper on proposals for reforming committal proceedings in the Magistrates’ Courts.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including the number of cases likely to be affected by the proposed reforms; the impact of committal proceedings on victims and vulnerable witnesses; how the current committal process had developed; the potential time that could be saved and the contribution this would make to speeding up justice; and the timescale for the consultation.

The officials agreed to provide the draft consultation document to the Committee.

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

3.57 p.m. Mr Weir left the meeting.

7. Draft Committee Report on the Proposed Legislative Consent Motion regarding the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill

The Committee considered a draft report of its consideration of the Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) in relation to the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill to allow for the increase in the maximum penalty available on conviction for the offence of unauthorised selling of tickets for an Olympics 2012 event in Northern Ireland to £20,000.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the report and appendices.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the report should be circulated to all MLAs prior to the debate on the LCM.

8. EU Proposals for legislation relating to Civil Justice Matters

The Committee considered and noted three proposals for EU legislation relating to civil justice matters.

9. Statutory Rule No 2011/243 The Family Proceedings (Amendment No.2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/243 which prescribed the procedure to be followed in the Family Proceedings Court in relation to applications for pension compensation attachment and pension compensation sharing orders.

4.01 p.m. Mr Wells left the meeting.

The Committee noted that the Examiner of Statutory Rules had no issues to raise with regard to the technical aspects of the Statutory Rule.

Agreed: The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/243 The Family Proceedings (Amendment No.2) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011 and had no objection to the Rule.

10. Statutory Rule No 2011/244 The Divorce and Dissolution etc. (Pension Protection Fund) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/244 make provision in relation to court orders for sharing or attachment of pension compensation on divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, nullity of a marriage or a civil partnership or separation (including provision relating to such orders following proceedings overseas).

The Committee noted that the Examiner of Statutory Rules had no issues to raise with regard to the technical aspects of the Statutory Rule.

Agreed: The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/244 The Divorce and Dissolution etc. (Pension Protection Fund) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 and had no objection to the Rule .

11. SL1 – Sexual Offences (NI) Order 2008: Unduly Lenient Sentences

The Committee considered a proposal to make a Statutory Rule to ensure that certain sexual offences introduced by the Sexual Offences (NI) Order 2008 could be referred by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the Court of Appeal if the sentence passed appeared unduly lenient.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request an oral briefing on the proposal.

12. SL1 – The Valuation Tribunal (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011 – High Hedges Tribunal

The Committee considered a proposal to make a Statutory Rule to amend 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.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek the views of the Committee for the Environment on the proposal given the Department of the Environment had substantive responsibility for the policy and legislation in respect of high hedges.

13. Correspondence

i The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice providing an update on the steps it was taking to improve efficiency and effectiveness in response to the Executive Review of Arm’s Length Bodies.

ii The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising of the re-appointment of Mr Karamjit Singh as the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Ombudsman.

iii The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to its request for information on what support/assistance could be given by the Department and the Prison Service to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists proposed pilot screening project for young offenders within the Justice sector with speech and language and communication difficulties.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the response to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

iv The Committee considered correspondence from the Department of Justice providing an update on the possible need for an Emergency Bill on pre-charge police bail in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request that it be informed of the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

v The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising of its intention to undertake a consultation on draft amendment regulations to transfer from HM Treasury to the Department of Finance and Personnel the requirement to consent to make determinations under the PSNI Severance Regulations.

vi The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice highlighting a change to the planned timing of the launch of the Northern Ireland Prison Service exit scheme.

vii The Committee considered a letter from Mr Raymond McCartney MLA enclosing correspondence from a Ms E Foulis regarding her son.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to Ms Foulis advising her that it had no power to intervene in the case and indicating the appropriate route to follow.

viii The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding Budget Flexibility/EYF and Monitoring Rounds.

ix The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel providing information on the current position in relation to the on-going monitoring of Post Project Evaluations.

x The Committee noted a copy of the Older People’s Advocate Legacy document November 2009 – September 2011.

xi The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding residual issues arising from the NICS Equal Pay settlement.

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

xii The Committee noted an invitation from Include Youth to their 2011 Annual Conference on Thursday 27 October 2011.

Agreed: The Committee noted that the Chairman intended to call into the Conference and agreed that any other Members wishing to attend would advise the Committee Clerk who would make the necessary arrangements.

xiii The Committee noted the Annual Reports of the Independent Monitoring Boards for HM Prison Maghaberry, HM Prison Magilligan and HM Prison and Young Offenders Centre, Hydebank Wood for the reporting year April 2010 to March 2011.

xiv The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for the Environment regarding a Review of the Magistrates Court (Costs in Criminal Cases) Rules (Northern Ireland) 1988.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice indicating that it supported the request by the Environment Committee for a review.

xv The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for the Environment regarding the reduction of energy costs.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Department of Justice for a response.

xvi The Committee noted the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report for the Department of Justice.

14. Chairman’s Business

The Chairman advised Members that the Youth Justice Review report was due to be published on Monday 26 September 2011 and the Minister of Justice would make a statement in the Assembly on that day. An embargoed electronic copy of the report would be provided to all Committee Members and the Review Team would attend the meeting on 29 September 2011 to discuss their findings and recommendations..

15. Any Other Business

A request was made for an overview briefing on the legal system and how it works.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a written paper outlining the legal system and structure and to hold an informal meeting with appropriate officials.

16. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 29 September 2011 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

4.19 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
29 September 2011

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