Assembly Committee for Justice Reflects on its First Year

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 23 March 2011

Reference: Jus05/10/11

Since it was established in April 2010 the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Justice has considered a wide range of complex and challenging justice related issues.

Speaking after the final Committee meeting today the Chairman Lord Morrow MLA said: “Justice related issues affect many people in Northern Ireland, particularly victims and witnesses. The Committee has worked constructively to make improvements to laws and to tackle the problems facing the justice system.

“One of our most significant pieces of work has been examining the Justice Bill. The Committee supported the broad principles of the Bill, particularly those that provided further support to victims and improved services for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses.

“We worked with the Department of Justice to improve several parts of the Bill. There were some changes however that the Committee wished to make that the Minister did not agree with. In addition we challenged the introduction of a number of proposed new laws that could have penalised ordinary sports fans. While in no way condoning bad behaviour at sports grounds we did not believe that a strong enough case had been made to justify the need for further criminal offences to deal with alcohol at sporting events. We felt there were existing laws and procedures already in place. The Committee was very pleased to receive the support of the Assembly for its proposed changes to the Bill which were informed by the views received from key organisations and stakeholders.”

Other issues examined by the Committee since April 2010 include the reform of Legal Aid, the Department’s draft budget for 2011-15, how to reduce avoidable delay in the criminal justice system, the handling of the McDermott case (the McDermott brothers’ return to a village where they committed abuse for 30 years) and on-going difficulties with the NI Prison Service.

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