Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 23 February 2012

Venue: Room 30

The meeting commenced at 2.04 p.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

None.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 16 February 2012

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 16 February 2012.

2.05 p.m. Mr Lynch joined the meeting.

3. Matters Arising

i. The Committee considered an outline programme for  its visit to a Witness Care Unit in Bradford on 15 March 2012 and noted the arrangements for a number of informal meetings with individuals in relation to the Victims and Witnesses Inquiry.  

Agreed: The Committee agreed the outline programme for the visit to the Witness Care Unit.

ii. Fiona O’Connell, Assembly Researcher, joined the meeting at 2.05 p.m.

Ms O’Connell outlined the key points in a supplementary briefing paper on the Committee Inquiry into Victims and Witnesses of crime and answered questions. 

The Chairman thanked Ms O’Connell for the briefing and she left the meeting.

iii. The Committee considered a letter from the Minister of Justice regarding correspondence he had received from a family highlighting their experiences at various stages of the criminal justice process in relation to the death of their daughter.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the correspondence as part of the Victims and Witnesses inquiry and that arrangements should be made for an informal meeting with the family.

2.15 p.m. Ms McCann joined the meeting.

4. Briefing on the results of the consultation exercise on the Review of Access to Justice

Robert Crawford, Deputy Director of Public Legal Services Division, and Angela Ritchie, Public Legal Services Division, Department of Justice, joined the meeting at 2.17 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on the results of the consultation exercise on the Review of Access to Justice and outlined the intention of the Minister of Justice to produce a formal response to the recommendations in the Review Report by June 2012. The officials indicated that the Minister would welcome the views of the Committee on particular priorities or areas of concern.

2.24 p.m. Mr Maginness joined the meeting.

2.25 p.m. Mr Eastwood joined the meeting.

A question and answer session followed covering issues such as how similar the Review recommendations are to the approach being taken in England and Wales; the timescale for Executive consideration of the Minister’s proposals and whether the changes to be introduced will be taken forward as a single programme of work or whether they will be introduced individually. 

The officials agreed to provide the Committee with comparative information on current policies, the review recommendations and the position in England and Wales and in Scotland.

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 matter further at its meeting on 1 March 2012 to allow Members time to consider whether there are any concerns or priorities that they wish to bring to the attention of the Minister.

5. Revised draft consultation document on the Future Operation of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland

The Committee considered a revised draft consultation document on the Future Operation of the Office of the Police Ombudsman which had been provided by the Department of Justice in response to issues raised be Members at a previous meeting. Concerns were raised that a number of issues had not been adequately addressed in the revised document.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice requesting that it reflects on the concerns raised and return to the Committee before the consultation document is issued.

6. Long Term Reform of Police Pensions – Proposals for Career Average Scheme for Police Pensions

The Committee noted information provided by the Department of Justice on proposals for a new Career Average Revalued Earnings Scheme for police officers.

7. Update on the Committee’s Review of Judicial Appointments in Northern Ireland

The Committee note the current position in relation to written evidence received for the Review of Judicial Appointments in Northern Ireland and oral evidence sessions scheduled for 1 and 8 March 2012.

8. SL1 – Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Prescribed Police Stations) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2012

The Committee considered proposals to make a Statutory Rule to replace current regulations of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 — The (Prescribed Police Stations) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/207) — as far as they relate to Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposals for the Statutory Rule.

2.50 p.m. Mr Eastwood joined the meeting.

9. Forthcoming Taxis (Powers of Retention and Return) Regulations

The Committee noted that the Department of Justice is currently drafting regulations in conjunction with the Department of the Environment and the PSNI in relation to taxi regulation as the power to make the regulations which are subject to negative resolution procedure, rests with the Department of Justice.

10. Correspondence

i. The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister of Justice advising that an agreement had been reached with the Minister of Health to extend the Mental Capacity Legislation to the justice system by way of a single Bill and requesting a meeting with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman along with the Minister for Health and the Chairman and deputy Chairman of the Health Committee to discuss the matter.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Chairman and Deputy Chairman should meet the Ministers and the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety to discuss the arrangements for a single Bill.

ii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister for Justice providing his response to a Ministry of Justice consultation on judicial appointments and Diversity in England and Wales and appointments to the United Kingdom Supreme Court.

iii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Public Accounts Committee providing the Memorandum of Reply (MOR) on its report on managing Criminal Legal Aid.  An

oral brief session on the issue would be scheduled into the Forward Work Programme as previously agreed.

iv. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for the Environment regarding alcohol consumption on private hire buses.

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

v. The Committee noted the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report for the Department of Justice – February 2012.

vi. The Committee considered correspondence from Dr Maguire, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland providing his draft inspection programme for 2012 – 2015 and a summary of issues raised by key stakeholders on the inspection process.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider the draft inspection programme at the meeting on 1 March 2012.

vii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice highlighting the current position regarding the Prison Service Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme following the closing date for applications and outlining the next steps in the process.

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

viii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding the resignation of one of the Independent Members of the Policing Board.

11. Chairman’s Business

The Chairman advised the Committee that the issue of the high cost of car insurance in Northern Ireland had been discussed at the Chairpersons’ Liaison Committee and further consideration would be given to establishing an Ad Hoc Committee to consider the matter.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for an Ad Hoc Committee consider the issue

The Committee noted the written submissions provided by the Committee for the Environment in relation to the high cost of car insurance.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to copy any relevant correspondence to the Environment Committee and other relevant Committees until the Ad Hoc Committee is established

12. Any other business

i. The Committee considered the conclusion of the trial concerning the murder of UDA leader Tommy English.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Justice requesting that he makes an urgent oral statement to the Assembly on the outcome and cost of the trial, given the public interest in this matter.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek legal advice on a number of issues.

ii. The issue of the facilities provided in courthouses for victims and witnesses and in particular Laganside Courthouse was discussed.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that arrangements should be made to facilitate a visit to Laganside Courthouse as part of the Victims and Witnesses Inquiry. 

13. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 1 March at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

3.28 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
1 March 2012

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