Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 15 September 2011

Venue: Room 30

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

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2.06 p.m. Mr Anderson joined the meeting.

2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 8 September 2011

The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 8 September 2011 .

3. Matters Arising

An issue that was covered during the briefing by the Minister of Justice on the Criminal Justice Inspectorate Report on the independence of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland at the meeting on 8 September 2011 when he accepted that compliance with Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights required a statutory mechanism but expressed the view that a short period of suspension of the investigation of historical cases by the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland would not breach Article 2 obligations was raised.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Compliance Committee of

the European Court of Human Rights outlining the position.

4. Briefing on proposed Legislative Consent Motion to allow for the provisions of clauses 21 and 32 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to extend to Northern Ireland

Robert Crawford, Head of Public Legal Services Division, NI Courts and Tribunals ServiceandPaul Andrews, Chief Executive, NI Legal Services Commission joined the meeting at 2.08 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on a proposal to bring a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) to the Assembly to extend the provisions of clauses 21 and 32 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to Northern Ireland to allow for the sharing of information on individuals financial resources from government departments in Northern Ireland and England and Wales for the purpose of determining eligibility for civil and criminal legal aid.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including the time likely to be saved by the Legal Services Commission if the provisions were implemented; how many applications were handled from applicants from other jurisdictions; what logistical problems needed to be overcome; the likely timescale for implementation; and the level of consultation with other relevant Departments and their views on the proposed LCM.

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 support the proposal to extend the provisions in clauses 21 and 32 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to Northern Ireland by way of a Legislative Consent Motion on the basis of reciprocity through the sharing of information held by government departments in England and Wales with the Legal Services Commission in Northern Ireland.

5. Briefing on Speeding up Justice: Development of a consultation paper on measures to encourage earlier guilty pleas

Maura Campbell, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Development Division, Chris Matthews and Jean Moore, Criminal Justice Development Division, joined the meeting at 2.35 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on proposals to develop a consultation paper on potential approaches to encourage earlier guilty pleas as part of the programme to speed up justice.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including the differences between the potential approaches outlined and what was already in place; whether the introduction of a statutory presumption of discount linked to the point at which the plea is made would reduce the existing discretion of judges; how to strike a balance between the rights of a defendant and speeding up the justice system; the likely perceptions of victims and the public in general to any move towards introducing plea bargaining; and how the proposals would apply to an appeal of a sentence.

3.07 p.m. Mr Anderson left the meeting.

The officials agreed to take account of the views and comments expressed by Members when finalising the consultation document and to refer it back to the Committee in draft form.

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

Agreed: The Committee agreed to give further consideration to the draft consultation document when available prior to its publication.

3.10 p.m. Mr Anderson rejoined the meeting.

6. Briefing on Proposals for the Allocation of Criminal Assets in Northern Ireland

Simon Rogers, Deputy Director, Policing and Organised Crime Division and Billy Stevenson, Head of Organised Crime Branch joined the meeting at 3.10 p.m.

The officials briefed the Committee on proposals for the allocation of criminal assets in Northern Ireland.

A question and answer session followed covering issues including who would have responsibility for the administration of funds and criteria setting; the scope for funding projects for which other Departments would have responsibility such as sport and art projects; the scope for funding clean up costs relating to fuel laundering; the total amount of money seized and the number of individual cases involved; and how projects would be prioritised assuming bids for funding outstripped the money available.

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

The Committee noted the proposals for the allocation of criminal assets in Northern Ireland.

7. European Union – Justice and Home Affairs Legislative Programme

The Committee considered further information from the Department of Justice regarding the current and proposed EU legislative proposals in Justice and Home Affairs matters.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice to request more details of the work it had undertaken in relation to accessing EU funds and what contact it had had with the Policing Board on this and to recommend that the Department maintained regular communication with the three MEPs on justice related EU issues.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it wished to be kept up-dated on progress in relation to the proposed “pathfinder” application.

8. Court Rules Forward Work Programme

The Committee considered a schedule of Court Rules to be progressed by the end of December 2011.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request further information regarding the proposal to insert new rules into the Magistrates’ Courts Rules (Northern Ireland) 1984 to prescribe procedure for applications relating to DNA retention, and clarification on how this rule could be framed in advance of the DNA Retention primary legislation being finalised.

3.32 p.m. Mr Weir left the meeting.

9. Statutory Rule No 2011/229 The Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) (Amendment No.3) 2011

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/229 to amend the Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) 1980 to provide for the award of penalties by the High Court (rather than the Industrial Court) under the Transitional Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 1999, in consequence of amendments made by the Transitional Information and Consultation of Employees (Amendment) Regulations 2010.

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 2011/229 The Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) (Amendment No.3) 2011 and had no objection to the Rule.

10. Statutory Rule No 2011/230 The Crown Court (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/230 to amend the Crown Court Rules (Northern Ireland) 1979 to prescribe the procedure for making an application to the Court for a domestic freezing order and how the Court should deal with an application in relation to an overseas freezing order and to make a number of other amendments intended to streamline existing procedures or remove obsolete references to reflect current practice.

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 2011/230 The Crown Court (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011 and had no objection to the Rule.

3.34 p.m. Mr Weir rejoined the meeting.

11. Statutory Rule No 2011/242 The Road Traffic Fixed Penalties (Enforcement of Fines) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011

The Committee considered Statutory Rule No 2011/242 to amend the Road Traffic Fixed Penalties (Enforcement of Fines) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1997 to allow for the effective enforcement of an unpaid Fixed Penalty Notice which has been issued in Northern Ireland to a person who resides in England, Wales or Scotland.

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 2011/242 The Road Traffic Fixed Penalties (Enforcement of Fines) (Amendment) 2011 and had no objection to the Rule.

12. Civil Legal Aid Reform: The Northern Ireland Statutory Charge Phase 2

The Committee considered proposals to make a Statutory Rule to make changes to the Statutory Charge and other miscellaneous amendments to the Legal Aid (General) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1965. The proposed rule would narrow the exemptions from the Charge in Ancillary Relief proceedings (these proceedings deal with financial provisions and property linked to matrimonial and divorce proceedings) resulting in the charge applying in many more cases. The rule would also up-date the regulations to reflect administrative and other legislative changes.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request an oral briefing on the matter and that the written paper should be resubmitted by the Department in the normal SL1 format to ensure all relevant information was provided.

13. Correspondence

i The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to its request for further details of the initiatives and action being taken to ensure staff sickness absence within the Department was robustly managed and that levels reduce across the Department.

ii The Committee noted a copy of a report by Queen’s University, Belfast and the NSPCC on “The Experiences of Young Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings in Northern Ireland”.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to consider this research further as part of its planned Inquiry.

iii The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice regarding the development of Long Term Policing Objectives.

iv The Committee noted a response from the Department of Justice to its request for further information on the approach taken to the procurement of rehabilitative programmes and services which address offending behaviour.

v The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Justice advising of the re-appointment of Dr Iyer to the Northern Ireland Law Commission.

vi The Committee noted the Probation Board for Northern Ireland Corporate Plan 2011-2014.

vii The Committee noted an invitation from the Belfast Health Development Unit to attend the launch of the Belfast Drug & Alcohol Working Group Report on Thursday 29 September.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that any Members wishing to attend would advise the Committee Clerk who would make the necessary arrangements.

viii The Committee considered the Criminal Justice Inspectorate report on the Governance inspection of the Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to request information on what action, if any, the Department of Justice intended to take with regard to the two strategic recommendations set out in the report and upon receipt of this information to consider whether an oral briefing on the report should be scheduled into the work programme.

ix The Committee considered correspondence from the Big Lottery Fund providing information on its work and funding relevant to justice issues.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite representatives of the Big Lottery Fund to the Committee’s next informal event.

x The Committee noted the Seventh Report of the Prison Service Pay Review Body on Northern Ireland.

xi The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding the EU Proposed Regulations on Matrimonial Property Regimes and the Property Consequences of Registered Partnerships.

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

xii The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding NICS Equal Pay issues.

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

xiii The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister of Justice regarding an interdepartmental transfer of funds between the Department of Justice and the Department of Regional Development for the installation of traffic calming measures to assist with the opening of the security barrier at Newington Street, Belfast. The work contributed to the strategic priority of incremental change on interface structures and was welcomed by the Committee.

3.52 p.m. Mr Wells joined the meeting.

14. Chairman’s Business

The Chairman advised Members that the Public Accounts Committee would be holding an evidence session on Wednesday 21 September 2011 on the NI Audit Office report “Managing Criminal Legal Aid”.

15. Any Other Business

i The issue of the provision of large documents/reports electronically rather than in hard copy was raised.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that, where appropriate, an electronic link to large reports/documents would be provided rather than a paper copy.

ii The transfer of responsibility for Social Security tribunals from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Justice was raised.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to request an update on this matter from the Department of Justice.

16. Date and time of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Thursday 22 September 2011 at 2.00 p.m. in Room 30, Parliament Buildings.

3.54 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.

Mr Raymond McCartney MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
22 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