Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 13 October 2011
Venue: Room 30
The meeting commenced at 2.04 p.m. in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 6 October 2011
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 6 October 2011 .
3. Matters Arising
- The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding his intention to make a statement on the Prison Review Report to the Assembly on Monday 24 October 2011.
- The Committee noted correspondence from Forensic Science Northern Ireland regarding the need for a DNA sample from Members wishing to participate in the Justice Committee visit to the Forensic Science facility on 24 November 2011.
- The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Jim Daniell, Head of the Access to Justice Review Team, providing further clarification on issues raised by Members during the oral briefing session at last week’s meeting.
4. Briefing on an SL1 – Reform of Legal Representation at the Crown Court – Assignment of 2 Counsel
Robert Crawford, Head of Public Legal Services Division, John Halliday, Public Legal Services Division, Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service and Peter Luney, Head of Court Operations, Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service joined the meeting at 2.06 p.m.
The officials briefed the Committee on proposals to amend the circumstances where the court can assign two counsel to a defendant in a Crown Court case.
2.09 p.m. Mr Maginness joined the meeting.
2.28 p.m. Mr Wells joined the meeting.
A question and answer session followed covering issues including consideration of the difference between the percentage of cases awarded 2 counsel in the Magistrates Court and the Crown Court and comparisons with England and Wales; the Department’s views on the impact of the proposals on delay in the criminal justice system; consideration of the role of District Judges and Crown Court Judges in assigning counsel in cases; the impact of the proposals on the learning opportunities for junior counsel; how the proposals will impact on an individual’s ability to appeal a judge’s decision in assigning counsel; how the estimated savings of £1.5 million were arrived at; and the room for judicial discretion in the new proposals.
Officials agreed to provide the wording of the Human Rights provision which is to be included in the proposals.
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 consider the proposals further when it receives the Human Rights provision from the Department of Justice.
5. Briefing on the results of the consultation on the PCSP Code of Practice for Independent Members; Designated Organisations; and Code of Practice for Functions
Declan McGeown, Head of Community Safety Unit, David Hughes, Head of Policing Policy and Strategy Division, Nicola Creagh, Community Safety Unit and Amanda Stewart, Partnership Manager, Northern Ireland Policing Board joined the meeting at 2.55 p.m.
The officials briefed the Committee on the results of the consultation on the Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.
A question and answer session followed covering issues including the Policing Board decision not to use the merit principle for appointment to PCSPs and the impact on community representation; the Department and Policing Board’s proposals to minimize the costs of the recruitment process; consideration of the Department’s plans to measure the effectiveness of PCSPs; the Department’s views on the impact of the Review of Public Administration on PCSPs; the process for appointing political members of the PCSPs; the Department’s views in relation to the PCSPs compliance with the Patten recommendations; details of the funding arrangements for the PCSPs; the compliance arrangements for designated organisations; how the Department intends to improve on the District Policing Partnerships and Community Safety Partnerships; and the responsibility for the recruitment exercise.
Mr McCrea declared an interest as a previous member of the Policing Board.
Mr Anderson declared an interest as a Member of Craigavon Borough Council and as a previous member of both a District Policing Partnership and Community Safety Partnership.
3.41 p.m. Mr Maginness left the meeting.
The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.
The Chairman thanked Mr McGeown, Ms Creagh and Ms Stewart for the briefing and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Justice noting the way forward in relation to the code of practice on the exercise of functions and proposals in relation to the compulsory designated organisations but raising concerns expressed on the recruitment to the PCSPs.
6. Briefing on the administration of the Part-Time Reserve Gratuity Scheme
Simon Hughes, Deputy Director, Protection and Organised Crime Division joined the meeting at 3.48 p.m.
The officials briefed the Committee on the administrative arrangements for the Part-Time Reserve Gratuity Scheme.
Mr Givan declared an interest as a family member received a payment under the Scheme.
3.55 p.m. Mr Maginness rejoined the meeting.
A question and answer session followed covering issues such as how the Department had handled the claiming of tax on the payments; how the Department is dealing with individuals whose payments were paid into the wrong account; consideration of the security impact to individuals who were part of the process; the Department’s position on providing information on the security assessment of how the scheme was handled; the details of the eligibility criteria for the scheme; the costs associated with administering the scheme; the status of the individuals who administered the scheme; the role of the Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Office in negotiating the £20 million for the scheme; and how the Part-Time Reserve Gratuity Scheme differs from other payment schemes.
The Chairman thanked the officials for the briefing and they left the meeting.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Office requesting the paper trail on how the tax issue was raised and where and when the stakeholders were advised of the likely tax implications.
7. SL1 - Proposed Commencement Order: Corporate Manslaughter: Custody/ Detention.
The Committee considered a proposal to make a Statutory Rule to commence in Northern Ireland section 2(1) (d) of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that they are content with the proposed Statutory Rule to bring into operation that part of the offence of corporate manslaughter that applies to the duty of care owed to persons in custody or detention.
8. Proposed Consultation on the Department of Justice Draft Disability Action Plan
The Committee considered a draft consultation paper on the Department of Justice’s disability action plan which it is planning to launch for public consultation.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice raising its concerns about the draft and to seek an oral briefing on the Disability action plan.
9. Consultation Paper on Draft Magistrates’ Courts (Costs in Criminal Cases) Rules (Northern Ireland) 1988
The Committee considered and was content with correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Magistrates’ Courts Rules Committee intends to publish a consultation paper on proposals to increase the maximum amount of costs that can be awarded by a Magistrates’ Court in respect of solicitors and counsel from £75 to £300.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the information to the Committee for the Environment given its interest in this matter.
- The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding the publication of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate Northern Ireland/ Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons inspection of Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre and Ash House Women’s Prison.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to take oral evidence on the findings of all three reports.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Health Committee regarding its intention to take evidence on the RQIA report.
- The Committee noted a response from the Minister of Justice to the Committee’s request for further information on justice issues raised by the Consumer Council in relation to the high cost of car insurance in Northern Ireland.
- The Committee noted a response from the Law Society of Northern Ireland to the Committee’s request for information on the Society’s Claims Advice Service and the justice issues raised by the Consumer Council regarding the high cost of car insurance in Northern Ireland.
Agreed : The Committee agreed to forward the Law Society response to the Consumer Council for comment.
Agreed : The Committee agreed for the Law Society response to be considered as part of the research paper the Assembly Research Services are currently preparing on the matter.
- The Committee considered a response from the Minister of Justice to the Committee’s request regarding what consideration he has given to allowing the filming of Court proceedings in Northern Ireland.
Agreed : The Committee agreed to commission a research paper on the current position on whether the ban on filming in court is in Statute and what happens in other jurisdictions.
- The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice providing further information on the estimated £2 million raised by the confiscation of criminal assets.
- The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding possible ‘loopholes’ in the law in relation to head shops and related issues.
- The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to the Committee’s request for further information on the transfer of Social Security Tribunals from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Justice.
- The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding the transfer of responsibility for Civil Legal Aid policy from the NI Legal Services Commission to the Department.
- The Committee noted correspondence from Save the Children regarding the childcare trap.
- The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding residual issues arising from the NICS Equal Pay settlement.
- The Committee considered correspondence from Include Youth requesting an opportunity to brief the Committee on the findings and recommendations of the Youth Justice Review.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the invitation when it receives the results of the consultation on the Youth Justice Review.
- The Committee considered a copy of an email from Kevin McCourt regarding the proposed inquiry into abuse.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the email to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister for information.
- The Committee considered an invitation from Youth Action Northern Ireland for a representative of the Committee for Justice to take part in a panel discussion with young people entitled “Lets Talk Community Safety”.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that a member of the Committee would attend the event.
- The Committee noted the Northern Ireland Prison Service – Corporate and Business Plan 2011 - 2015
11. Chairman’s Business
- The Chairman informed the Committee the NSPCC has written asking the Committee to host a short press launch in Parliament Buildings for two policy and research papers it has completed.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to sponsor the event.
- The Chairman informed the Committee that both the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety and NIACRO had written regarding the Mental Capacity (Health, Welfare and Finance) Bill.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice for information on any plans /arrangements for moving forward on this issue in a joined up manner with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
- The Chairman informed the Committee that both he and the Deputy Chairman have received an invitation to take part in the Belfast Solicitors’ Association lunchtime lecture series and that he had agreed to give a presentation on the role and responsibilities of the Committee if a suitable date can be identified. The Deputy Chairman will also attend if available.
- The Chairman informed Members that both he and the Deputy Chairman have received invitations to a reception hosted by the Bar Council for Dalriada School who won the National Bar Mock Trial competition and will now be attending the International Mock Trial event in New York.
The Chairman and the Deputy Chairman are unable to attend the reception.
Agreed : The Committee agreed that the Chairman should write on behalf of the Committee congratulating Dalriada and sending best wishes for the competition in New York.
- The Chairman informed Members that an informal lunch with departmental officials is being organised for Thursday 27 October in the Long Gallery. The lunch will take place just before the Committee meeting. It is being hosted by the Minister and will provide an opportunity for Committee Members to meet officials that do not appear in front of the Committee on a regular basis and informally discuss justice issues.
12. Any Other Business
13. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Thursday 27 October 2011 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.
5.25 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.