Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 28 June 2011

Venue: Room 30

The meeting commenced at 10.03 a.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

There were no apologies.

2. Briefing by the Bar Council on the Legal Aid Dispute

The Chairman advised Members that the Law Society of Northern Ireland had also been invited to brief the Committee, as agreed at the previous meeting, but had indicated that it would prefer to provide a briefing at a later date given the pending meeting with departmental officials on the matter.

Mark Mulholland, Vice Chairman, Bar Council, Michael Duffy, Bar Council and Karen Hamill, Senior Forensic Consultant, Goldblatt McGuigan joined the meeting at 10.06 a.m.

The representatives of the Bar Council briefed the Committee on their concerns regarding inaccurate reporting of the context for the legal aid dispute and the current position.

10.11 a.m. Mr Anderson joined the meeting.

10.16 a.m. Mr McCrea joined the meeting.

Mr Weir declared an interest as a non-practising Member of the Northern Ireland Bar.

Mr Maginness declared an interest as a Member of the Northern Ireland Bar.

A question and answer session followed covering issues such as the budget available for legal aid and the cost of the joint Bar Council/Law Society proposal; the need to reduce spending on legal aid to bring it within the available budget; the administrative costs of a barrister; the creation of a public defence service; the comparative costs of legal aid in England and Wales; the distribution of legal aid work amongst barristers; the comparative defence and prosecution costs in criminal cases; the level of representation provided; and the current position in relation to the legal aid dispute.

10.26 a.m. Ms McCann left the meeting.

10.26 a.m. Mr Lynch joined the meeting.

11.08 a.m. Mr McCartney left the meeting.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

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

The meeting was suspended at 11.14 a.m. to enable Members to vote in the plenary session.

The meeting resumed at 11.30 a.m. in public session.

Present:
Mr Paul Givan MLA (Chairman)
Mr Stewart Dickson MLA
Mr Sean Lynch MLA
Ms Jennifer McCann MLA
Mr Jim Wells MLA

In Attendance:
Mrs Christine Darrah (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Vincent Gribbin (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Joe Westland (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr Kevin Marks (Clerical Officer)

3. Briefing on the results of the consultation on Legislative Proposals for DNA/Fingerprint Retention

David Hughes, Head of Policing Policy and Strategy Division and Ian Kerr and Gary Dodds, Police Powers and Custody Branch joined the meeting at 11.30 a.m.

The departmental official’s outlined the responses received to the consultation undertaken on legislative proposals for a new framework for DNA/Fingerprint Retention.

11.36 a.m. Mr Maginness joined the meeting.

11.39 a.m. Mr Lynch left the meeting.

11.43 a.m. Mr Maginness left the meeting.

11.44 a.m. Mr Anderson joined the meeting.

11.48 a.m. Mr Weir joined the meeting .

A question and answer session followed covering issues including why the proposals for DNA/Fingerprint retention in Northern Ireland were less restrictive than the Scottish model; what account the Department would take of the responses received during the consultation exercise; whether there were any examples of individuals who had been convicted of crimes under the current retention scheme that would not have been convicted if the new scheme had been in place; when the retention proposals for England and Wales would be available; the need for clarity recording the position of children; the quantum and nature of the destruction process; and what the final proposals for the framework would be.

11.52 a.m. Mr McCartney joined 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 request that the Minister of Justice provide an up-date on his final proposals for a new framework for DNA/Fingerprint Retention prior to the introduction of legislation..

4. Briefing on proposed Access NI Regulations

Agreed: The Committee agreed that, due to time constraints, the briefing on the proposed Statutory Rule for Access NI Regulations would be rescheduled to the meeting on Thursday 30 June 2011.

5. Policy Proposals to Reform Police Discipline and Unsatisfactory Performance Procedures in NI

The Committee considered policy proposals to implement reforms to the discipline and unsatisfactory performance procedures for the PSNI to provide a more effective method of disciplining police officers and address difficulties with the current system.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider further information on the proposed reforms in the autumn.

6. Consultation on UK wide Carriage of Dangerous Goods: Approved Derogations and Transitional Provisions

The Committee considereda proposal to carry out a UK-wide consultation on proposals for a joint Department of Transport, Department of Justice, and Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Carriage of Dangerous Goods: Approved Derogations and Transitional Provisions document rather than separate GB and NI versions and amendments to the documents.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation to take place as outlined and to receive information on the results in due course.

7. Consultation on the Amendment of the Carriage of Explosives Regulations (NI) 2010

The Committee considereda proposal by the Department of Justice to undertake a consultation exercise on proposals to amend the Carriage of Explosives Regulations (NI) 2010 to take account of an EU Directive (Directive 2010/35/EU) and to revoke the labelling requirement of the Classification and Labelling of Explosives Regulations 1991 and replace it with an industry code of conduct.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content for the consultation to take place as outlined and to receive information on the results in due course.

8. Speeding up Justice Programme: Reducing Avoidable Delay in the Criminal Justice System

The Committee considered information provided by the Department of Justiceon its programme to speed up justice and reduce avoidable delay and the current position regarding its targets.

Agreed: The Committee noted the position and agreed to request a further up-date on the position at the end of 2011.

9. Correspondence

i. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising that the Annual Report and Accounts of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) would be laid in the Assembly on 7 July 2011.

ii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice indicating its intention to consult on policy in relation to the upper age limit for jury service.

iii. The Committee noted the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report for the Department of Justice for June 2011.

iv. The Committee noted a Criminal Justice Inspectorate report on Use of Legal Services by the Criminal Justice System.

10. Any Other Business

i. The issue of the recent further erroneous release of a prisoner was raised.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a written briefing note on the matter from the Department of Justice for the meeting on 30 June 2011.

ii. The Chairman reminded Members that an informal event with three organisationswould take place on 30 June at 12.15 p.m.

11. Date and time of next meeting

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

12.01 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

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

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