Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 30 June 2011

Venue: Room 30

The meeting commenced at 2.06 p.m. in public session.

1. Apologies

There were no apologies.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 23 June 2011

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 23 June 2011 .

3. Matters Arising

i. The Committee noted the final version of the consultation document on the implementation of Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSPs) which included the changes requested by the Committee and considered its handling of the consultation itself.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a full copy of the responses received by the Department to the consultation exercise to assist its consideration of the issue.

ii. The Committee noted that the First Minister and deputy First Minister had agreed to the Minister of Justice entering into an Agency Arrangement with the Secretary of State that would enable him to exercise certain functions under the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007.

iii. The Committee noted an outline framework for a piece of work it intended to undertake to inform the proposed new 5 year strategy for victims and witnesses of crime that the Department of Justice intended to develop .

2.11 p.m. Mr Weir joined the meeting.

4. Briefing by the Chief Inspector on Criminal Justice Inspection NI and its work programme for 2011/12

Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice Inspection NI and Brendan McGuigan, Deputy Chief Inspector, joined the meeting at 2.11 p.m.

Dr Maguire briefed the Committee on the role of the Criminal Justice Inspection and his planned work programme for 2011/12.

2.14 p.m. Mr Maginness joined the meeting.

2.20 p.m. Mr McCartney joined the meeting.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including the procedure for following up on report recommendations; how CJI developed its work programme; how CJI utilised experts in particular criminal justice areas when necessary; further actions that could be taken to help the experience of victims and witnesses of court; and how avoidable delay in the Criminal Justice System could be reduced.

The Chairman thanked Dr Michael Maguire and Brendan McGuigan for the briefing and they left the meeting.

5. Briefing by Mr Tony McCusker on his report into allegations of interference by Departmental officials in the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

Mr Tony McCusker, joined the meeting at 2.36 p.m.

Mr McCusker briefly outlined the findings of his report into allegations of inteference by Departmental officials in the office of the Police Ombudsman.

2.57 p.m. Mr Lynch left the meeting.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including the conclusions and recommendations reached in the report; the relationships between senior officials in the office; the leadership given by the Police Ombudsman; the actions taken by departmental officials and the management role of the department; and the outcome of the 5-year Review of the office.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Mr McCusker for the briefing and he left the meeting.

6. Briefing by the Minister of Justice in response to the Report into allegations of interference by departmental officials in the office of the Police Ombudsman.

The Minister of Justice, Peter May, Director of Policing and Community Safety and Anthony Harbinson, Director of Justice Delivery joined the meeting at 3.38 p.m.

The Minister of Justice briefed the Committee on actions he intended to take in light of the findings of Mr McCusker.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including why the Department of Justice did not address the issues in the Police Ombudsman’s Office earlier; what action the Department intended to take in response to the finding that there had been interference; and the level of public confidence in the Ombudsman’s Office.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman asked the Minister of Justice to briefly up-date the Committee on the recent meeting between his officials and representative of the Law Society and the Bar Council on the on-going legal dispute and progress to resolve it. The Minister then responded to a number of questions regarding emails that the Committee had received from a solicitor which referred to the Minister.

The Minister and his officials left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Law Society requesting that a full and thorough investigation should be carried out into the matter.

7. Briefing on a Proposed Commencement Order: Corporate Manslaughter: Custody/ Detention

Gareth Johnston, Head of Justice Strategy Division, Max Murray, Director of Offender Policy, NI Prison Service and David Mercer, Justice Strategy Division, joined the meeting at 4.31 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on a proposal for a proposed Statutory Rule to bring into operation that part of the offence of corporate manslaughter that applied to duties of care owed to persons in custody or detention.

4.40 p.m. Mr McCartney left the meeting.

4.46 p.m. Mr Maginness left the meeting.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including whether any of the recent deaths in custody would have led to a corporate manslaughter charge had the proposed legislation been in place and the measures being taken by the Prison Service to prepare for the implementation of the legislation.

4.50 p.m. Mr Wells left the meeting.

4.56 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 refer the proposal to the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety for its views given the implications for the Department of Health.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to seek further information on whether the proposed Statutory Rule had implications for any other Government Department.

8. Briefing on the Review of the NI Criminal Records Regime

Ms Sunita Mason, Independent Reviewer and Tom Clarke, Review Secretariat joined the meeting at 4.57 p.m.

5.00 p.m. Mr Weir left the meeting.

5.06 p.m. Mr Maginness rejoined the meeting.

Ms Mason briefed the Committee on the Review of the NI Criminal Records Regime she was currently undertaking and answered questions on a range of issues including the portability of AccessNI checks; on-line up-dating and the need for any new system to be tested to ensure there is no dilution of public protection.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Ms Mason for the briefing and she left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request that a copy of the report of the Review of the NI Criminal Records Regime be provided to it as soon as it was available.

9. Briefing on proposed Access NI Regulations

Tom Clarke briefed the Committee on proposals for a Statutory Rule to amend AccessNI Regulations to improve its operational service.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including issues raised by respondents to the consultation recording the minimum number of applications required to qualify as a registered body and the proposal to disclose informed warnings and diversionary activity.

The evidence session was recorded by Hansard.

The Chairman thanked Tom Clarke for the briefing and he left the meeting.

Agreed : The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice outlining its concerns regarding the disclosure of informed warnings diversionary activity.

10. Consultation on proposals to introduce a review mechanism in relation to Sex Offender Notification

The Committee considered proposals by the Department of Justice to consult on plans to introduce a review mechanism for indefinite notification and further strengthen the effectiveness of the sex offender notification requirements.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a full copy of the responses received by the Department of Justice to the consultation exercise to assist its consideration of the issue.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request copies of relevant papers that had been provided to the previous Committee for Justice on this issue.

11. Consultation on County Court Scale Costs

The Committee considered proposals by the Department of Justice to undertake a consultation exercise on proposed amendments to the existing scale costs to take account of the proposed increase in the County Court jurisdiction from £15,000 to £30,000 and proposals to increase existing scales in line with inflation.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request a summary of the results of the consultation exercise and detailed information in the form of an SL1 in relation to the proposed Rules.

12. Correspondence

i. The Committee noted an up-date from the Department of Justice in relation to the proposals and draft rules on assignment of council in Crown Court proceedings.

ii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising of the intention of the Home Office to enact new regulations in relation to the application form for Private Security Industry Act (SIA) applicants.

iii. The Committee noted the departmental response to issues raised during the oral overview briefing on the Policing and Community Safety Directorate on 2 June 2011.

iv. The Committee noted correspondence from the Public Prosecution Service providing a copy of its Corporate Plan 2011-14 and Annual Business Plan 2011/12.

v. The Committee noted the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service Judicial Statistics 2010 report on criminal, civil and family business in the NICTS.

vi. The Committee considered correspondence from a Mr Hammond regarding the lengthy delay in payment of NICS pay awards to PSNI/civilian staff.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice on this matter.

vii. The Committee noted the Compensation Agency retention and disposal schedule for closed criminal injury and criminal damage claims.

viii. The Committee noted the Prisoner Ombudsman’s Annual Report April 2010 – March 2011.

ix. The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice regarding issues raised by the Committee in relation to legal highs and head shops and the need for legislation.

x. The Committee noted a Northern Ireland Audit Office report entitled “Managing Criminal Legal Aid”.

xi. The Committee noted an invitation to attend a Serious Crime Conference on 25 August 2011.

xii. The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the Executive’s Review of Financial Process.

13. Chairman’s Business

i. The Committee considered procedures for handling Freedom of Information (FoI) requests for committee papers during periods of Assembly recess.

Agreed: To enable governance arrangements to be met the Committee agreed to delegate authority to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman to submit, during periods of Assembly recess, views on the releasing or withholding of the information in any non-routine/contentious FoI requests..

ii. The Chairman advised Members that he had met with representatives of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists regarding work and training that organisation was undertaking in the justice sector.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to send the information to the Department of Justice with a request that consideration be given to the proposed pilot project College and that the Committee be kept informed of developments.

iii. The Chairman informed Members of the informal meetings held prior to the Committee meeting with representatives of the Prince’s Trust and the Iron John Project.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice regarding issues raised.

14. Any Other Business

None.

15. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 8 September 2011 at 2.00 p.m. in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings or at an earlier date if the Chairman decides it necessary.

5.47 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
8 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